The New York Instances’ new Slack app goals to convey you Instances tales (not miserable) whilst you work »Nieman Journalism Lab

On Thursday, the New York Times launched a Slack app designed to help encourage conversations about Times stories that people are already in – that is, in their existing Slack workspace.

The Slack app is part of the Times’s larger exploration to reach new audiences, said assistant director Anna Dubenko.

“We need to understand how a Times reader uses the New York Times in a professional context in their personal life,” Dubenko said. “How useful are we to their lives, their careers and the way they and their colleagues build the corporate culture? … More and more people are working remotely. We need to understand how our reporting is useful to people in different contexts. “

If you panic at hearing Slack’s tapping brush notification tone – and already receiving too many message push notifications – don’t worry too much. The Times’ Slack app won’t send you breaking news notifications. Dubenko said her team is more interested in providing content that leads to conversation.

“There is a certain type of news that is really stressful and tiring and depressing,” Dubenko said. “[But] We’re also very good at telling really delightful stories. If you’re reading this great real estate story about the tower in Midtown where billionaires live, it’s just fun read. I don’t think this is the kind of news that tires people. “

The New York Times has experimented with Slack apps in the past. A slack bot for the 2016 presidential election focused on a two-way conversation with readers, allowing them to submit questions that were seen and answered by Times staff. (“Uh … Trump isn’t going to win, is it?”) An in-house Slack app called Blossom, launched in 2015, helps Times staff decide which stories to post on social media.

The new app has three main functions. First, it offers daily recommended reads personally curated by one of The Times’ audience editors. You’ll need to manually navigate to the NYT app in Slack to see it on the Home tab. You can then enter “/ nytimes” in any Slack channel in your workspace to display the recommended metric there.

The second function is the “Save for Later” button. When a coworker posts the recommended reading of the day (or other url of the time) to your workspace’s general channel, the button will appear below and you can save the story. You can then find your saved stories in your Read Later list on the app.

The third feature is similar to a virtual water cooler. It shows when a story was shared on multiple public channels (The Times doesn’t read your DMs). If you paste a Times link in Slack and someone else in your workspace has already done so on another public channel, it will alert you that this was also discussed on those other channels.

The idea, Dubenko said, is to encourage healthy conversations in the workplace. First, Dubenko and the audience product team, led by Scott Sheu, created a separate Slack workspace to test the app. After asking others to test it, they found that installing it in the main New York Times workspace would be unproductive, as many Times URLs are already released there on a given day. Instead, they let the Wirecutter team test it because, as the Times company, they share some Times links and are experts at reviewing products.

Currently, the recommended daily reading is the same for everyone using the Slack NYT app. The one I get in my Nieman Lab Slack is the same as the one Dubenko gets in her NYT Slack. In a daily press conference, Dubenko and her team discuss which story should be presented. One day it could be a long story; Another day could be a day more focused on technology. Overall, they consider which stories would be both appropriate and interesting for the workplace. In the future, the team would like to tailor reading operations to the interests of the user, Dubenko said.

Andy Pflaum, Slack product director, said that integrating an app built into Slack can help keep a user organized if they are already referencing messages frequently in their work meetings.

“One of the benefits is providing users with relevant information and services where they can do this work with their teams, so they don’t have to switch to other applications all day long,” said Pflaum. “You can share [content] right there or work together and discuss it with your teams right away. “

The data collected by the Times is de-identified and aggregated for analysis purposes so that the Times cannot read any public or private messages.

“We know whether you came through a later read or a recommended read,” said Dubenko. “That is one of the advantages of the app. We can better understand how people engage with it – it’s not just like, “Somebody posted a link somewhere on Slack and clicked it.”

Other news organizations with Slack apps include Protocol, Nikkei, Fox News, Hacker News, and Anti-Racism Daily. Before Dubenko moved to the Times, she worked at Digg, which has its own Slack app. Since arriving, she had considered Slack as a content sharing platform.

“Early testing shows readers and users like it, but I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to do all sorts of really nice things in the future that might use personalization and interact with other parts of the building like cooking, gaming, and Wirecutter, ”said Dubenko. “We just want to bring this thing out into the world and see how you react to it. This is by no means the definitive version of what the Times looks like on Slack. “

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