The International New York Times.
The International New York Times. Photo by Elon Gilad
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How does a successful local newspaper - or a local TV show, or a local high tech startup company for that matter - go global and yet retain the unique voice and the quality that made it as good as it was, back home, to begin with? It’s a question that even the venerable New York Times, arguably the most famous local paper in the world, has to think about as it branches out and becomes an increasingly global brand.

And so it was, on Friday morning, on the occasion of the rebranding of the International Herald Tribune as the International New York Times, that Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, the new president, international for the New York Times Company, hosted a special event, here in Israel, to think about this concept of “Glocal.”

He hosted the event together with Amos Schocken, publisher of Haaretz, the first international paper to forge a joint venture with the IHT, sixteen years ago. Since then, the IHT, now called the INYT, has joined forces with dozens of other international newspapers, including El Pais in Spain, Kathimerini in Greece and the Japan Times.

The Paris based, 126-year-old paper now known as the INYT has merged the resources of its own correspondents with those of The New York Times, and is printed at 38 sites throughout the world. It is sold in more than 135 countries and territories – sometimes, as in the case of Israel and the association with Haaretz, as a package with an English language edition of a local paper.

Mark Thompson, president and CEO of the New York Times Company, in Israel this week with Dunbar-Johnson, as part of the International New York Times launch tour, headlined the Friday panel, which took place at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa in front of an audience of media figures, diplomats, journalists, and a smattering of the country’s “who’s who.”

The other panelists were Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times’ Jerusalem Bureau chief and Avi Nir, CEO of Keshet Broadcasting, which has created a string of Israeli TV series and formats that have successfully been re-made in the U.S., including, most famously, “Hatufim,” which became the award winning HBO series “Homeland.” Also on the panel were Frank Melloul, CEO of the new Israeli-based I24 News channel, and Asaf Peled, founder and CEO of FTBpro, a soccer news application that produces some 300 user-generated - soccer related - content items a day. Eytan Avriel, editor of TheMarker Magazine, moderated.

Taking a strong local content brand and turning it into a successful business internationally, is, the panelists agreed, a challenge - but one they all felt confident can and does work. “Engaging, confronting, and giving context to the issues of the world is the mission of the International New York Times,” stated Thompson. “We don’t aim to replace local news, but rather to be part of the mix.”

Increasingly, Thompson added, the economics of journalism means that there are less and less papers and media outlets able to send out armies of foreign correspondents and properly report. The New York Times’ ability to “put boots on the ground,” and invest in such quality journalism makes the paper a “luxury brand,” worth reading - and paying for, he believes. “The New York Times is one of the ‘last men standing,’” in this regard, Thompson stated.

Consumers, be they readers or TV watchers, are looking for “unique voices,” added Nir. “Our experience is that success depends not on translating a script, but on hearing the real voice of the story teller. Where is the pain? What is the angst?”

People are looking for voices that will “resonate and not just entertain,” Nir said. Having a great story, and knowing how to tell it, is imperative when it comes to transforming anything into a successful world brand. "And that,” Nir promised, “...is where loyalty lies.”