Nik

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On November 20, 2016, Nik commented on The New York Times – from Print to Digital :

Hi AC, I couldn’t agree more with your point about the need for the NYT (and the news industry at large) to incorporate more and more software engineers and data scientists. A real challenge that news publications face on that front is finding people with the right mix of skills. It is rare for computer science majors to choose to pursue a career in journalism when they can earn so much more by joining big tech companies in Silicon Valley. Likewise, journalism majors rarely have the advanced skill level that would be needed for major breakthroughs in the field. Academia is taking steps to catch up, however. In 2011, Columbia University launched a dual master’s program in journalism and computer science with the intent to prepare graduates for the news industry’s growing need for professionals with advanced tech backgrounds coupled with knowledge of journalism’s best practices. You can learn more about the program at: https://journalism.columbia.edu/journalism-computer-science.

On November 20, 2016, Nik commented on Programmatic as a driver of digital sales :

Hey J B, one question that sprung to mind as I was reading your post was how Programmatic Ad Sales in the context of journalism can be made to prevent inappropriate ad placement. BuzzFeed has a list of 101 unfortunate internet ad placements [1] which, in addition to being funny, poses a very serious questions for publishers: How can they ensure that their editorial integrity isn’t hurt by an unfortunate algorithmic decision? While adding a layer of human oversight would likely solve the problem, it’d also take away from much of Programmatic’s value proposition.

[1] Matt Stopera, “101 Really Unfortunate Internet Ad Placements,” BuzzFeed, January 27, 2011, https://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/101-really-unfortunate-internet-ad-placements?utm_term=.efeBWJXaE#.emkeDXwYB, accessed November 2016.

Hey AhmadMans, on your point about NYT’s need to “transform the culture to genuinely adopt digital”, I would recommend you check out a Poynter article that came out in June, [1] which discusses structural changes to the NYT newsroom spearheaded by editor-in-chief Dean Baquet. Among other things, the digital news design team and the interactive news team have been merged into a single unit, and the audience development team has been integrated into the main newsroom workflow. I’d be interested to know if you think these changes are steps in the right direction as far as the required cultural transformation you advocated for.

[1] Benjamin Mullin, “New York Times Reorganizes Digital Leadership Ranks,” Poynter, June 24, 2016, http://www.poynter.org/2016/new-york-times-reorganizes-digital-leadership-ranks/418699/, accessed November 2016.

On November 20, 2016, Nik commented on The New York Times Adapts to the Digital Age :

Hi PD, I would push back on your suggestion for the NYT to adopt a micropayment model by saying this is an idea that’s been around in journalism circles for many years now, but it’s never really taken off because of the mental barrier it poses to readers. The problem, the long-standing argument goes, is less about the amount readers are required to pay, and more about the fact that they are required to pay anything at all (and enter payment info to do so, which takes time). There is a Dutch start-up called Blendle that nonetheless believes the pay-per-article model is promising if weaved into a seamless customer experience.[1] Major publications such as the NYT, WSJ and others have partnered with Blendle, presumably in the hopes of getting insight into the micropayment model. This is a recent development in the news industry, but I’d be curious to see how NYT’s bet on Blendle pans out.

[1] Julia Greenberg, “Would You Pay 25 Cents to Read an Article? Blendle Certainly Thinks So,” Wired, March 23, 2016, https://www.wired.com/2016/03/pay-25-cents-read-article-blendle-certainly-thinks/, accessed November 2016.

Hi NJG,

Toward the end of the post, you argue that “the NYT should not only operationalize itself to compete digitally on the same basis as Facebook and Google, but firmly assert its role as the professional and editorial informant to the public.” There’s no question in my mind that the NYT would absolutely love to accomplish these two goals, but they’re increasingly difficult goals to reach, and here’s why:
– Facebook and Google are essentially taking over news organizations’ sway over content distribution. Facebook has recently deployed a tool called “Instant Articles” whereby it stores news articles on its own servers and consequently loads them much faster for FB app users. [1] Instant Articles is shown to improve article readership, but that improvement comes at the expense of outlets’ control over their content distribution. Likewise, Google has recently launched “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP,) an HTML standard for mobile news content.[2] Google algorithms have already been tweaked to penalize articles that don’t abide by the AMP standard, which means news organizations must now choose between adopting the Google-sanctioned HTML standard or ranking lower on Google for mobile searches. In such a scenario, how can the NYT compete on the same basis as Facebook and Google?
– I’d say the NYT already has an impeccable reputation as “the professional and editorial informant” in the eyes of its existing audience. Expanding its audience reach is the actual challenge the paper faces as the media landscape moves toward increasing polarization of editorial stances. President-elect Donald Trump has attacked the NYT’s editorial integrity on Twitter before and since the election. While that reinforces the paper’s editorial independence in the eyes of its long-term readers, it further ostracizes right-wing readers who have long been suspicious of its coverage. How does the NYT wins them over without compromising its values?

Tough questions for the Sulzbergers (and other publishers) to think about!

[1] “Instant Articles,” Facebook, https://instantarticles.fb.com/, accessed November 2016.
[2] “Accelerated Mobile Pages Project”, Google, https://www.ampproject.org/, accessed November 2016.

Thanks John, I was glad to see we were both interested in the same subject! Given my personal experience with the Olympics, writing about the impact of climate change on the Games was a natural choice for me.

Your question about use of domestic legislation to enforce sustainability standards is an interesting one. While I do not think host cities should necessarily have stellar records on sustainability before being selected to host the Games, (otherwise developing countries would largely be excluded from the pool, which would contradict the Olympic Charter directives,) I do think that host cities should be held accountable to their stated sustainable goals after they are selected. Enacting local legislation is a great way to do so. Rio provides a cautionary tale in this regard – the state of Rio de Janeiro promised to clean up 80% of the pollution in Guanabara Bay but came far from reaching the target and officials have not been held accountable for their failure.

The joint regional bids you mentioned are actually part of the Olympic Agenda 2020, which relaxes requirements about having events hosted within a host city’s limits and allows events to be staged in several cities or even countries. Deutsche Welle has a good article on these proposed changes: http://www.dw.com/en/ioc-agenda-2020-allows-olympics-in-different-host-countries/a-18116022

As you say, this proposal would have an impact on the cohesiveness of the Olympic experience. I do think there is a lot to be said about having people from all nationalities congregate on a single city to strengthen universal bonds and celebrate athletic achievement, (as no other sporting events can achieve a comparable level of congregation). However, the benefits this proposal brings in terms of sustainability (as well as cost reduction) largely make up for the loss.

Thank you for your comment, AZ! You’re absolutely correct in that Tokyo 2020 presents a great opportunity for a highly industrialized country to make a bold statement on the importance of combating climate change. (The 2024 Olympics, which will be in either Paris, Los Angeles or Budapest, will be able to further expand on that opportunity.) To your point about Tokyo’s sustainability plan, one interesting aspect of the Olympic is its legacy transmission component: After the Games end, the Olympic host city hosts several sessions to share lessons learned with the next host as part of the handover process. (Rio and Tokyo are currently undergoing this process.) This means that there is an institutionalized mechanism for host cities to build on initiatives from previous hosts, and so it is perfectly reasonable to expect that Japan and other future hosts continue to build on Rio’s climate change legacy.

Thank you, JPrice! I completely agree with you – moving outside events indoor or restricting endurance events to nighttime would be a huge blow to the Olympics. Moving summer events to the Winter would also be problematic for a number of reasons ranging from syncing competition calendars of several sports to diluting the Winter Olympics brand. Offsetting climate change impact by implementing sustainable practices is definitely the way to go.

I also agree that we should harness the Olympics as a beacon to promote climate change initiatives. There is a limited number of truly global events capable of commanding worldwide media coverage, but the Olympics certainly fall under this category. Just like the Games bring together athletes from virtually all countries on Earth, the fight against climate change too will require all countries to come together if it has any chance of succeeding. As I said in my post, Rio’s bold statement on the need for sustainable practices is a step in the right direction that the IOC should continue emphasizing moving forward. Rio’s climate change focus is particularly remarkable given that former hosts have chosen to use their opening ceremonies as a means to advance their countries’ geopolitical agenda, whereas Brazil has chosen to put the spotlight on a more grand topic. (Though there is an argument to be made that Brazil’s choice is also geopolitical and not by any means selfless – Brazil is one the countries that has been most impacted by climate change so far.)

Thanks, AbMcK. You raise a great point, which is that discussions on climate change adversities are largely confined to impacts on supply chain management and often overlook labor considerations. Your comment too is pushing me to think more holistically about other ways climate change will affect the Olympic business model in terms of labor practices. For instance, the Games rely heavily on volunteers to perform a number of duties. How will climate change affect the volunteer program? In Rio, there were instances of no-show volunteers who quit their jobs about having had to work for many hours under the sun. This is surely a question the IOC will also have to grapple with going forward.

I would never have guessed that concrete is responsible for ~5% of the global emissions of C02, Amir! Thank you for your eye-opening commentary on the impact of architectural design on climate change. As an architect, how would you assess architects’ overall willingness to incorporate sustainable solutions into their projects, especially when the most sustainable choice requires a trade-off in terms of aesthetics or functionality? You mention that architectural firms need to fully incorporate sustainability into their processes, as opposed to merely consulting with experts on environment. What steps would you recommend be implemented to that end? Would an academic curriculum review at architecture be a good way to ingrain a sustainability mindset among future generations of architects? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions.

This is fascinating, Wincent! As you mention, places like Brazil and California have undergone severe droughts recently and Unilever intelligently took this as an opportunity to invest in research and development of household cleaning products that require less water consumption. Your post provides strong evidence to the fact that the combat against climate change offers significant business opportunities as consumers start taking notice of the heightened impact of climate change in their lives, (be it through droughts or other extreme weather conditions.) I’d be interested in learning about other products that Unilever has developed or is looking into developing as a result of market demands related to climate change.

On November 7, 2016, Nik commented on Japan Airlines, Climate Change and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics :

Hi Uther, thank you for your insightful commentary on Japan Airlines’s strategy to offset the environmental impact of the aviation industry’s fuel consumption. You mention that JAL has set several targets to be met in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, so I was wondering what your views are on how the airline can leverage the fact that Japan will be hosting the Games in its efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations. This is a point the title of the post alludes to but the post itself doesn’t go in detail into, so I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

On November 7, 2016, Nik commented on H&M and the Push for Sustainability in Fast Fashion :

Insightful analysis, zaradi! One question that sprang to mind was to what extent H&M’s efforts to educate customers on climate change can have a negative impact on their fast fashion business model, which is entirely based on the cultural norms around the disposability of clothing. Do you think that H&M will be willing to take the risk of having customers realize how damaging fast fashion is to the environment?

On November 6, 2016, Nik commented on Could the Olympics solve Global Warming? :

Very interesting post, John! I also wrote a post on the same topic, I invite you to check it out at: https://digital.hbs.edu/platform-rctom/submission/record-breaking-athletes-battle-record-breaking-temperatures-climate-change-as-a-threat-to-the-olympics/

My approach was to discuss what the Olympic Movement has been doing so far (e.g. going big on climate change at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony) and should consider doing moving forward (e.g. associate the Olympic brand only with carbon-free initiatives or consider adaptive measures such as hosting endurance events in the winter or at night.) Your post focuses on the Olympics’ potential to act as a global platform for pushing forward the climate change conversation. I agree with you that no other event trumps the Olympics in terms of fostering global co-operation, and I think your framing of the call for IOC action as a logical follow up to Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic vision is very astute. As you say, the sustainability directives included in the Olympic Agenda 2020 are a step in the right direction. My question to you would be: How would you improve the Olympic Agenda 2020 in terms of sustainability? What do you think is missing?

Thank you for your comment, BAL!

To your point about the IOC’s limited ability to impact the climate change conversation, I would argue that very few events have the power to command as much media attention worldwide the Olympics (the FIFA World Cup being the only event with comparable media coverage that springs to mind,) even if they only take place every other year. Fellow blogger John Hintze makes a great argument for the IOC to step up efforts in that direction, I’d suggest you check it out at: https://digital.hbs.edu/platform-rctom/submission/could-the-olympics-solve-global-warming/

As for restricting Olympic bids to cities with great track records in sustainability, one could argue this would limit the Olympics’ ability to act as a vehicle for change. If your suggestion were to come into effect, the Olympic Movement would be largely restricted to the developed world, which is in contradiction with the Olympic Charter’s directive to expand the frontiers of the Olympic Movement. More concretely, Rio de Janeiro would likely not have been selected as a host city had the IOC required it to meet high sustainability standards before the election. (Guanabara Bay waters are polluted and only about 40% of the city’s sewage is treated.) Had Rio not been selected as a host, we most likely would not have seen climate change concerns take the spotlight at an opening ceremony anytime soon. Can you imagine the USA taking a similar stance in an opening ceremony? The UK, Russia and China also steered clear of controversial topics in their ceremonies, while Brazil not only addressed climate change but also depicted the lasting effects of colonialism in developing countries, was upfront about its shameful past as a slave trade destination and celebrated the cultural richness of Rio’s favelas. Perhaps a better idea would be for the IOC to require future host cities to meet certain sustainability standards after they are selected as hosts, so that the Olympics can effectively help spread sustainable practices globally.

Thank you, Wincent! The IOC now requires organizing committee to embed sustainability practices into the overall planning of the Games.

In terms of facility design, Rio built on the London model and incorporated post-Games legacy concerns into the design of venues. I’d suggest you check out a great Wired article that explains how “Rio goes further [than London] with structures that can be removed, rebuilt, and repurposed.” The article is available at https://www.wired.com/2016/08/games-rios-stadiums-wont-rot-theyll-transform/

As for supply chain management, sustainability was also top of mind for organizers, so much so that Rio 2016 Games were granted the ISO 20121 certification. (More info on the certification at: https://www.rio2016.com/en/news/rio-2016-receives-top-global-sustainability-certificate-for-organisation-of-major-events) Adopting sustainable supply chain management practices were of special significance to the Rio organizing committee given the controversy surrounding water pollution in Guanabara Bay, where sailing events were held.

Climate change is still a controversial and politically loaded topic in many parts of the world. Rio’s strong statement on climate change was itself controversial, as I pointed out in the article. I do think the Games have the potential to bring visibility to the negative effects of rising temperatures, given the aspirational quality intrinsically tied to Olympians.