Jul 23, 2020 - Economy

Meredith Kopit Levien lays out vision for NYT as future CEO

Meredith Kopit Levien. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Meredith Kopit Levien, the incoming CEO of The New York Times tells Axios that her vision for the future includes establishing The Times as a world-class digital and tech company, continuing to attract the industry's top talent, and working to promote The Times' brand and broader ecosystem of independent journalism.

Why it matters: Kopit Levien is credited with the company's digital turnaround. Her focus on data, product and technology will be a big thing to watch in the coming years at The Times.

Driving the news: The Times announced Wednesday that Kopit Levien, the paper's current COO, will become its president and CEO, succeeding Mark Thompson and becoming the youngest executive to lead the company at age 49.

Details: As part of Kopit Levien's goal to make The Times a digital powerhouse, Kopit Levien says she wants to "reimagine the way we do our work to look and feel and operate the way transformational tech companies do."

  • "It's increasingly about how we create the conditions to do world class product development work — how we drive product innovation," she said, We're still on journey to that."
  • Kopit Levien noted that much her work as COO over the past two years has been breaking down long-held silos between departments.
"There are more engineers at The Times than any other department other than journalists."
— Meredith Kopit Levien

Yes, but: Kopit Levien says The Times' strategy is "broadly working" and "any change from here is a question of emphasis."

Between the lines: The Times' long-stated goal is to reach 10 million digital subscribers by 2025, and the company is on its way. Earlier this year, it announced that it has more than 6 million digital subscribers.

  • "We’re still in a journey to play a role in many more people’s lives and times to play a bigger role people already have relationship with brand," Kopit Levien said.

The big picture: Kopit Levien's impact on the Times to date cannot be overstated.

  • She is credited with turning the business around from being mostly dependent on advertising to getting most of its money from subscriptions.
  • She transformed the company's business structure to more closely integrate product and data.
  • Kopit Levien also modernized The Times' advertising business to rely more heavily on creative digital solutions, like sponsored content, than traditional print ads.

The Times has been caught in political crosshairs several times during the Trump presidency. Asked how she intends to handle political pressure from the administration and others, Kopit Levien says The Times is as committed as ever to upholding the principles of quality and independent journalism around the world.

  • "We are living in an incredibly polarized time. The most important thing we can do in that time is continue to report the truth as we see it and do so with real curiosity and spirit of independent journalism."
  • The most important thing The New York Times can do is keep investing in that. And keep doing work independently — without fear or favor — and you will continue to see us do that regardless of whoever the President is."

What's next: Kopit Levien says to expect The Times move into new spaces "with more vigor."

  • "Audio has been a very big area of focus and investment for us," she told Axios. On Wednesday evening, The Times announced it struck a deal to acquire Serial Productions, the maker of the hit true-crime podcast "Serial."
  • "The Daily, which has now had over 1 billion downloads, has become a daily habit for so many people," Kopit Levien said. "We've begun to use The Daily as a mechanism to put other audio journalism into the world."
  • The Daily, on average, garners more than 3 million downloads each day.
  • The Times has since invested in multiple TV and film projects.

Go deeper: Meredith Kopit Levien named CEO of the New York Times

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