The New York Times has named former top NPR executive Kinsey Wilson to help its digital news efforts.
Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet appointed Wilson to be one of his top deputies in the newly created role of editor for innovation and strategy, the newspaper announced Tuesday morning.
Wilson was NPR's chief content officer when he was forced out last month by the network's new CEO, Jarl Mohn. Wilson had worked for NPR for more than six years and is credited with inspiring and guiding its digital approach as much of the audience migrated from traditional radio stations to mobile devices and other online platforms.
Among his major accomplishments at NPR, Wilson led the creation of NPR One, a Pandora-like digital service that offers listeners stories and segments from disparate shows using an algorithm that is responsive to what they actually decide to listen to. He also encouraged the development of NPR Music, now a major force in the music industry, and digital verticals that complement the network's radio coverage and focus on such topics as race and identity, education and global health.
Wilson's philosophical disagreements with NPR's new CEO were not absolute, but Mohn insisted that the network and its member stations increase the listenership of its tentpole shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Wilson believed NPR was in an advantageous position compared with other legacy media outlets because, he believed, its audiences on traditional radio had plateaued but not dropped sharply. He thought this gave the network time to figure out how to reach people who preferred to listen at alternate times and on digital devices like smartphones and on streaming services in cars.
The newspaper industry is facing, if anything, sharper shifts in the habits of its readers. The New York Times' response so far has met with mixed results. Its journalism has received strong praise, and its online paywall has brought new revenues from digital subscribers and is considered by industry analysts to be a success. But the paper has conceded disappointing results from mobile apps that were introduced to great fanfare, such as NYT Now, and another focused on opinion writers that has been discontinued.
In an interview with NPR in May, Baquet conceded he was something of an old fashioned newspaper executive. "There are things that we have to do in order to do digital journalism as powerfully as we've done print journalism," he said. "And sometimes we get in the way of ourselves — people like me." Baquet's dispute with his predecessor, Jill Abramson, over who should fill a position similar to the new slot filled by Wilson helped lead to her dismissal and Baquet's elevation.
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