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  • Arran Bardige, Executive Director, Data and Insights, Audience, Storytelling and Publishing, The New York Times

Arran Bardige, Executive Director, Data and Insights, Audience, Storytelling and Publishing, The New York Times

Describe your career to date

I started my career writing short prompts to get people all over the world to do simple tasks. At the time, this was called “crowdsourcing” and it was used to accomplish jobs that humans could do rather easily (like identifying objects in a picture) that were really hard for machines. The results ended up fueling AI models and creating massive training datasets. In that job, I learned three things: How to code; how to communicate simply; how to understand the basics of machine learning. 

 

From there, I brought crowdsourcing to SEO, enabling large retailers to optimize their catalogs of hundreds of thousands of products quickly. It turned out incredibly successful, but I was eager to expand beyond SEO. 

 

I was recruited to lead data at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and ended up leading strategy for the sites’ redesign. I knew I needed to better understand the business world to have more impact, so I left to get an MBA while continuing to volunteer. I worked with The Women’s March, cheetah conservation and organ donation. I also joined the board of Mother Jones. 

 

After grad school, I spent time as a venture capitalist before coming back to analytics and strategy. I led international analytics, research and insights for The Guardian, helping them figure out how to expand around the world with a focus on North America. In 2020, I moved to The New York Times where I work with the newsroom, audience and product teams. 

What stage has your organization reached on its data maturity journey?

I think every organization has areas where it thrives and areas where it could improve. Our team is no different. As we get more pointed with our insights, we will inevitably develop more products to maintain, more areas to scale and more nuanced views of the world. On any given day, these areas may feel immature, but that’s because we are constantly pushing what it means to excel.  

 

Tell us about the data and analytics resources you are responsible for

I lead several teams consisting of full stack analysts. We sit within the data and insights organization, but are embedded in various newsroom and product teams. This means that our team is the voice of data within the newsroom and also the voice of the audience/newsroom within the data organization. We regularly present our insights to the c-suite and senior editors with the goal to keep them informed of audience, product and platform trends. We try to disentangle the ups and downs caused by the news cycle from those caused by strategic interventions or product improvements. This helps the company better understand our business levers and make strategic or tactical changes. 

What challenges do you see for data in the year ahead that will have an impact on your organization and on the industry as a whole? 

The world is filled with so much data that it is getting harder to draw meaningful insights. We risk a situation where we are so intent on measuring everything that we end up with hundreds of KPIs that don’t relate to one another and make it hard to assess the true value of any decision. This will be a year where we try to return to a single scale in order to compare initiatives across the organization. As we do this, some metrics will have more fidelity than others. The hardest part will be to make sure we don’t shortchange a good initiative just because it is difficult to measure accurately. 

 

Have you set out a vision for data? If so, what is it aiming for and does it embrace the whole organization or just the data function?

I want an organization where anyone can come up with a data-driven hypothesis and where we have the systems in place to quickly validate it, while assessing both the potential impact and accuracy. That means agreeing on a shared goal and understanding the levers to achieve it. 

Arran Bardige
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2023 (USA)