Is The NYTimes crossing the line?

NYTimes

The New York Times announced on July 21 its partnership with the famous coffee shop, Starbucks.

The idea is to make available for free some NYTimes articles to members of the Starbucks loyalty program.

Starbucks will select some articles in the Times and will share them via the Starbucks mobile app.

Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The New York Times Company, is trying to save the newspaper and widen its reach. So partnering with Starbucks can seem like a good idea.

But is it ethical?

I just read in the New York Times’ Ethical Journalism Handbook that employees shouldn’t have stocks in any company… I get that giving Starbucks free articles isn’t exactly the same as having stocks but if you think about it, isn’t it a little similar?

Isn’t it infringing a little on the notion of independence of the press?

Only time will tell but I am a little worried about this decision. I wouldn’t like to see The New York Times lose its independence for Starbucks…

 

Photo Credit: Ahmed Hashim, The New York Times, Once Upon a Time. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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5 thoughts on “Is The NYTimes crossing the line?

  1. This is a good issue, Audrey. With your posts, by the way, please link to the article your’s discussing, as in the example of the Times article about its deal with Starbucks (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/business/media/some-new-york-times-articles-to-appear-free-on-starbucks-app.html?_r=0). For a more independent view of the deal, though, it makes sense to seek out coverage by outlets other than the NYT or Starbucks’ press releases. Starbucks is based in Seattle, and The Seattle Times provides just the sort of independent coverage needed: http://www.seattletimes.com/business/starbucks/starbucks-inks-digital-deal-with-new-york-times/. A big question I had after reading the NYT article concerned the business model of this deal: Who pays whom? The NYT left the question unanswered. The Seattle Times provided the answer: The NYT pays Starbucks for the “stars” that serve as a kind of currency for its customers. As newspapers enter business relationships (in addition to advertising relationships) with companies covered in their news columns, here’s another question: Should the paper disclose the relationship somehow? And if so, how?

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  2. This is a good issue, Audrey. With your posts, by the way, please link to the article you’re discussing, as in the example of the Times article about its deal with Starbucks (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/business/media/some-new-york-times-articles-to-appear-free-on-starbucks-app.html?_r=0). For a more independent view of the deal, though, it makes sense to seek out coverage by outlets other than the NYT or Starbucks’ press releases. Starbucks is based in Seattle, and The Seattle Times provides just the sort of independent coverage needed: http://www.seattletimes.com/business/starbucks/starbucks-inks-digital-deal-with-new-york-times/. A big question I had after reading the NYT article concerned the business model of this deal: Who pays whom? The NYT left the question unanswered. The Seattle Times provided the answer: The NYT pays Starbucks for the “stars” that serve as a kind of currency for its customers. As newspapers enter business relationships (in addition to advertising relationships) with companies covered in their news columns, here’s another question: Should the paper disclose the relationship somehow? And if so, how?

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  3. I don’t like this. Why should Starbucks loyalty program members have access to information that the rest of us don’t? Surely, some will say “you DO have access to that, but you have to pay.” Well, that’s not the same. Loyalty to a brand or to a business should only be rewarded by that brand or business, not by a journalistic/news/media organization. In my view, that is directly opposed to the purpose of journalism – to inform as many people as possible. However, like we’ve discussed previously, news organizations are businesses and they need to profit from their product, so this does make sense economically if not morally. I see it as yet another unfortunate side effect of the current journalistic landscape in which newspapers are scrambling for ways to stay afloat.

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  4. It’s a smart partnership. It sounds like it could be similar to the deal NYTimes is creating with Facebook. I think we’ll start seeing more and more companies like Starbucks and Facebook hosting news’ sites content on its own platform.

    It solves one issue which the late David Carr wrote in his column, The Media Equation, “Loading publishers’ web pages on a mobile device can be maddening” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/business/media/facebook-offers-life-raft-but-publishers-are-wary.html).

    I agree that the question of independence is in tension here. But this partnership is more about generating revenue. I’d treat it separate. There’s the NYTimes that has control of their content and their site, and then there’s the NYTimes that has shares sponsored posts and publishes on other companies’ sites.

    What I hope to see as these partnerships with companies with news organizations is the clear delineation of what the reader is consuming. We already see it with sponsored posts on the news organization’s website, like the Netflix-sponsored article about prison we discussed in class recently. I hope we see that same clear delineation when we read a NYTimes article directly on Facebook or in the Starbucks app.

    I have one idea. What better way to represent Starbucks or Facebook having control over NYTimes content & comments than to create a new logo that represents that partnership? Something that intertwines the logos or a whole new one per new partnership. The visual will be more powerful, especially on mobile, where most people consume news.

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    1. This discussion is right on point of our upcoming Aug. 3 class, and reflects several of the challenges & opportunities we’ll address — including David Carr’s observations about usability. Emily, your suggestion of an NYT/Starbucks logo is a very interesting idea that certainly underlines the principle of transparency — even as it raises its own set of questions about independence.

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