Browsing LinkedIn and Instagram to Put Herself in Readers’ Shoes

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Anna Dubenko, editor of off-platform strategy, discussed the tech she’s using.

Tell us a bit about your role as an editor of off-platform strategy. What does off-platform mean, and what does it involve?

We use the term off-platform to mean all the places where readers could encounter our journalism outside the Times app and website. It’s a way of orienting ourselves to be empathetic to the way readers consume news and spend their time online.

This means I spend my days thinking about how to make our journalism work on platforms like Apple News, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pocket. I try to put myself in readers’ shoes to figure out how best to make our stories match what they’re looking for.

Are they looking to unwind with a great long read from the magazine over the weekend? Perhaps Flipboard can help us reach those readers. Do they want to hear directly about a journalist’s experience reporting a story? A Reddit AMA is the way to go. It’s all about recognizing that not everyone comes directly to

What tech tools are important to do your work?

What’s fun about my job is that I have to play around and investigate various platforms all day. This means that when I have my LinkedIn home page open on my desktop, I can honestly tell my boss that it’s for work.

Same goes for Instagram. I’ve been involved in rethinking our Instagram strategy, which means that I get to swipe through other publishers’ Stories for competitive research. I’m very impressed, for instance, with what Politico is doing on Instagram. It’s clear that whoever is running that account gets whom the platform is for (young people) and how to make Politico journalism relevant to their lives.

What are some emerging tech platforms or tools that you think will become prominent channels for media outlets to disseminate stories?

I’m very bullish on LinkedIn, especially for publishers like The Times. We want to reach readers who are looking for stories to help them be better at their jobs and more knowledgeable about their industry. LinkedIn helps us reach those readers, often in really targeted ways.

Recently, for example, LinkedIn editors sent a story by Karen Weise, one of our tech reporters, about Amazon workers pushing the company to be more climate conscious to everyone on the platform who worked for Amazon. As an audience editor, I found that really exciting.

In the same vein, I’m really curious about how we can use Slack to reach this same kind of reader. Professional people are staring at Slack all day long and sharing stories relevant to work (also stories not relevant to work, but that their colleagues may find entertaining).

It’s the “dark social” of 2019, and I’m excited to crack the code. I’m thinking of it as a first step on our path to figuring out how The Times should be distributed on other messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Line.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to get exposure for their work online?

This is a no-brainer. Every writer should know where his or her readers are and how best to reach them. Owning your distribution channels is the single most important thing a writer can do to reach the right audience. Moreover, it helps when you’re speaking to an audience that can, in return, generate story ideas and give you tips.

Practically, this means figuring out which communities on Reddit are talking about your beat. Or being aware of which Facebook groups are most active in your area of coverage. Most writers are already on Twitter, and they probably should be. Twitter is an important place to reach other writers and to network. But if you want to build a readership, you need to know where your noninfluencer readers spend their time.

What tech products do you love outside your job?

I love my Arlo baby monitor. I have two kids (3 and 1), and it’s one of the few video monitors that allow me to access both feeds on my phone. It was one of Wirecutter’s picks. It also does all sorts of fancy stuff like monitor the temperature and humidity of the kids’ rooms.

It’s really accurate. Once, when I was putting my older daughter to bed, one of us passed gas. I thought it would go unnoticed until my husband came upstairs. The Arlo had alerted him to an “air quality” issue in my older daughter’s room.

I’m also obsessed with TikTok. Every night, before I go to bed, I open the app and promise myself that I’ll watch only two or three short videos. Thirty minutes later, I’m in a wormhole of “rich boy checks” and D.I.Y. boy bands. It’s the last joyful place on the internet, and I’m just trying to savor it before it becomes a toxic wasteland.

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