#NYTsnow is the best show

socialmed_ia    February 10, 2015

Organization name: New York Times
Industry: News
Web references: New York Times


January 26, 2015; New York City and area prepare for heavy snowstorm to hit within hours. The storm is expected to shut down the city, and people are getting ready for a “snow day”.

At this time, a great idea was developed by Matt Flegenheimer , a New York Times reporter’s team. The team has decided to crowd-source pictures from the snow from its readers and use it for two days ahead front page, and so they wrote: “The National Weather Service is predicting that the blizzard bearing down on New York and New England starting Monday will bring “at least one to two feet” of snow along with wind gusts of 50 miles an hour… The New York Times would like to invite readers across the Northeast to share their experience with the snowstorm… And if you’d like to share a video, please tag it on Instagram using #NYTsnow…

The results were amazing, the NYT experienced a tremendous success, and tons of pictures videos were uploaded and tagged all over the Instagram

And at the first time, the New York Times published a “customer made” version – the front page showed nine selected pictures, taken by its readers:


In addition to the front page, the newspaper created a slideshow in their website, and a YouTube video.

The process of getting permission to use the pictures was, however, not so smooth. It appears that the Times credited people accurately, yet some of them found their picture on the front page by chance.

In summary, it seems that the New York Times has developed an impressively innovative way to engage its readers in the publishing process using social media tools. Despite some small corrections yet needed to be articulated, the customers engagement in the product design process is a worthy of emulation.


Lessons for others:

  • Social media is a great tool to engage customers
  • Think “out of the box” and employ it
  • Give your customers fun mission to complete
  • Be simple and clear – explain what you need and set time, date and place
  • Do not forget to credit relevant customers
  • Check and apply legal aspects of copyrights and the like


I would add two additional lessons for NYT:

  • Measure your impact (if you are not already doing that)
  • Find the way to keep the fun going after you use your customers’ products


An interesting note should be made here – I contacted the reporter Matt Flegenheimer in order to get some understanding on how they chose this amazing way to engage customers, and how this idea came to his mind. He simply answered me “The truth is, I had nothing to do with the photo idea — I just wrote the article with which the images appeared”.
His answer was so surprising, so I googled a bit more to get some sense of the NYT use of social media, and I have a reason to believe that the Times sped up gears towards the use in social media since November 2014,  when Alexandra MacCallum got into her new position and declared a new era for the Times, as described in this blog: “I think … a lot of our competitors have already built these functions. Analytics, SEO, social, community — they all existed before, but they didn’t all work in the newsroom. We do have a lot to catch up on, but with engagement, it’s a little uncharted territory”.

P.S. Here is another way to enjoy a snowy day… (Do not forget your hot chocolate…)


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For your future enjoyment, I have collected couple of related examples on how other news websites or newspapers use social media to get their readers engaged more than just read their news loyally:

BBC News In Pictures – please refer to “your pictures” section

Mashable organized a group of photographer in Manhattan to gather and take #Mashmeet pictures outside, and gave a gift for the winners (seems that my lessons for others already working!)


Submitted by: Socialmed_Ia – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.

To contact the author of this entry, please email at: sm-sm-sm@outlook.com

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