Liz Heron, a key social media editor at The New York Times, is moving to the Wall Street Journal to take up the position of director of social media and engagement for the WSJ Digital Network.
“In this pivotal role, Liz will lead a growing team that will be ever more focused on deepening the engagement we have with existing readers globally, as well as expanding our audiences, both on our own platforms as well as in social media,” said Raju Narisetti, WSJ’s managing editor for digital, in a memo reproduced on Capital New York.
Heron also announced her move on her Facebook page, where she has more than 380,000 subscribers. In a later update, in response to those who have asked if there will be a war between the two papers over her subscribers, she said that “The Times is too enlightened for that.” Nobody can “own” Facebook subscribers, she continued, adding that she hoped her fans will stick with her but that she has already suggested plenty of other NYT journalists to follow if they prefer.
As Poynter’s Steve Myers noted, Heron will have different strategic challenges at the WSJ due to the paper’s paid online content model, which is significantly different to that at the Times. The Journal chooses certain stories each day which are available free to all, and blocks the others, while The New York Times allows non-subscribers 20 free articles a month but enables them to read an unlimited amount via social media. It might mean that Heron’s new role will be more targeted at engaging with subscribers than with the social media world as a whole.
A memo from Sasha Koren, the NYT’s deputy editor of interactive news, also published by Poynter, credits Heron with playing a huge role in “opening up the minds of editors and reporters on almost every desk to the possibilities and importance of social journalism,” and expressed sadness to see her go. Myers, who spoke to both Koren and Aron Pilhofer, editor of interactive news, suggests that it will be hard for the paper to replace her, as there is still a lack of journalists with the right social media skills.
As social media plays an ever-more important role in referring traffic and allowing journalists to engage with readers, will social media training become more widespread?
For more on Heron's social media strategy at the Times, see here.