Importantly, as Levien assumes the greater role, Kinsey Wilson, who has led much of the company's digital efforts over the past two years, will not take on another permanent role, his position eliminated. Wilson will stay with the Times for an unspecified time and advise Thompson. "We like his digital vision, his insights, his instinct and his abilities to get synergies with the newsroom," the CEO told me on Wednesday.
Shares of The New York Times Company fell 0.6% to $17.25 on Wednesday, but are up almost 30% so far this year.
The elimination of Wilson's position ["Why the New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson"] poses one significant question mark today. Much of the Times' success over the last two years has been built on a newly built and stronger internal dynamic of unusually close collaboration between the newsroom and the Times' business side. Still, Thompson, noting that this is his third significant re-org in a five-year tenure, is willing to take that gamble. He paints this move as a next step in a continuing process of reinvention.
"With Meredith, I find that things happen and they happen quickly, in repeated cycles," says Thompson, in explaining the promotion. Indeed, internally, her work is well-respected, and she's known as a tough-minded manager and a risk taker. "She'll increase the clock time on product development and time to market," one business-side insider told me Wednesday, and that sense has been reinforced as I've talked to more than a dozen Times staffers over time. Faster decision-making inevitably means "no" as well as "yes," and Levien's willingness to do so clearly helped in her elevation.
I asked Levien what she is going to do to expedite product-centric market strategies.
"Hire and retain great people with domain expertise," she says, and her top lieutenants, including T-Brand's Seb Tomich and Brand's David Rubin indicate the kinds of moves she'll make next. Thompson told me that her first big hire will be a "head of product and design," which is a new position for the Times. (Both top positions heading design and product, last held by David Perpich, who has gone on to head the Times' Wirecutter unit, have been vacant.)
Historically, that job has been a difficult one for Thompson to fill, though Wilson overall has gotten good marks for moving the Times' core digital products, especially its smartphone one, and its newsroom culture, profoundly forward. In addition, he's led the Times' new highly successful podcast initiative, led by The Daily, and serves as a main liaison point to the Silicon Valley giants whose businesses are entangled with the Times.