If every company has become a tech company, then The New York Times is a prime example. Although it launched as a print newspaper 171 years ago, in 1851, today that same company is very much a tech-driven media business.
While the transition has been ongoing to some extent for decades, the NYT brought in Jason Sobel in the summer of 2021 as chief technology officer to accelerate the transformation into a modern tech organization.
Sobel brings 15 years of pure engineering expertise to the job, including long stints at Airbnb and Facebook, where he helped to lead infrastructure. The Times brought in an engineer with this kind of expertise precisely because it needed someone to build the same kind of technology that was being built by the biggest tech companies.
In fact, Sobel said that he has found that the technical side of things isn’t all that different from his prior experience, except that everything he does is done in service of the editorial business.
“So it’s funny — it actually isn’t that different. I mean, the newsroom does make a difference in some ways. There’s obviously the strong editorial voice that’s always going to be important in the kinds of content we write and how we deliver it,” Sobel told TechCrunch.
But when it comes to building a technology organization, Sobel said what the paper of record is building actually feels quite familiar. “We have a cross-functional team of designers, engineers and product managers all working together to ship websites and apps and back-end tech. So I’ve been surprised at how similar it is,” he said.