NYTimes R&D

6 May 2011

For an institution like the New York Times, which has been dying, drying, decaying for more than a decade now (but we all keep looking at it with hope), reinventing & refreshing their publication, formats, ideas are not only a way of staying competitive but the only way forward.

Their R&D department became the first in the journalism industry & it became a synonym of publishing innovation back in 2006 when Michael Zimbalist joined the Times Company as vice president, research & development operations, and has led the development of the R&D team since.

You all probably are familiarized with their News.me project… a dream come true by Bit.ly & the NYTimes R&D… and probably the best news feed + social stream aggregator out there.

As most R&D corporate departments their aim is to “anticipate” (guess?) customer preferences, “anticipate” publishing trends, product development, audience development, advertising innovations… etc (ways of staying alive basically). The lab is being done on the 28th floor of their shiny NY building trying to constantly propose creative thinking … as Michael Zimbalist puts it, the team is “investigating the ideas at the edges of today and thinking about how they’re going to impact business decisions tomorrow.” It’s only a matter of time before we see Harry Potter’s live-feed newspapers…

Their latest project “Cascade” comes as another data visualization experiment, although it doesn’t merely stop at representing a large number of tweets but more  like trying to understand the way new customers share the information on this (and other) social platforms.

Cascade when American went dark

They’ve been working on it for several months… a tool which links browsing behavior on a site to sharing activity to construct a detailed picture of how information propagates through the social media space. While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.

Cascade was developed by R&D using open source tools including Processing and MongoDB.

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