Matt Boggie, Director Technology Strategy, R&D Operations at The New York Times gave us a tour of their labs on the top floor of their 8th Avenue headquarters. He brought up the day's news in the bathroom mirror by waving his hand, showed us their latest apps for Microsoft Surface, and gave us 3D glasses to watch baseball animations from the NYT graphics department. "Ambient computing will be much more important over the next few years", he told us.
But although the gadgets were great - it was clear the real buzz is social media optimisation. An organisation the size of the Times needs to keep track of over 300 Twitter accounts alone, and this means developing a sophisticated toolset to manage this. The highly visual tool Cascade, for example, helps them see stories spread via Twitter over time, plotting activity lines on a 24hr circle. We could see how a tweet about Jerry Seinfeld's comments on one article sent 29,000 readers back to the site.
Now that columnists are involved in driving their own traffic, they need to know when and how to tweet. Many will tweet the same link to a story 2-3 times in a day. But they need to tweet the right content at the right time, and this is where tools like SocialFlow are changing the way the NYT (and CNN, Bloomberg, The Guardian and others) communicates.
Lee Jones, Chief Revenue Officer at SocialFlow, told us how the company can raise clicks per tweet by 40%. The key metric is "attention scoring" - i.e. understanding what people are talking about and what will interest them.
And that's just the beginning - next you need to change the way you process web analytics, a subject we'll cover address in a future blog post, part of our discussion with Jones's fellow companies at the startup family Betaworks in New York.