I began [developing the Sweet Spot] with the thought exercise of: What would it take to get me to watch a six- to eight-minute video of two white people at a table talking? The answer is: Nothing, there’s nothing in the world that would make me do that. So then I thought about: Okay, what can we do in short format that will be not just interesting to the audience and interesting to me? And the answer to that was: Nothing. Nothing would be interesting.
I put a full day if I count the hours Tony and I trade off production of the show, and the show. And the discussion that would occur in two minutes it’s just of no interest to me. So what we’re doing instead is we’re doing what we want – within reason. I mean there’s a lot of oversight on video matters and attention being paid to video matters right now – and then hoping that the spins grow.
I’m gonna predict that if we stick with it, in format, and start to do maybe a little more in the way of packaging in the middle of it, we will eventually get to six figures in terms of the numbers of spins on it, and that we’re gonna muscle it through.
What I like about the show and think is working: They had us on a desk – we have this studio in the newsroom, and I fought long and ferociously to get off that desk, and so we moved up to the [Times] lunchroom. You can see New York out the window. Very important – like, Purple Mountain Majesty, there it is, Gotham City, out the window. One.
Two is, you can see people moving around in the background. Three, there’s food on the table, I’m often eating it, Tony is not – we have very different dietary choices. And to me, verisimilitude and authenticity are extremely important.
I was impressed by the launch of HuffPo’s video – behind that beautifully rendered little studio that they have – they have a camera behind the camera to show you are somewhere. And I think the mistake that a lot of serious video people make is an attempt to ape the templates of television.
I think videos from newspapers should always look like videos from newspapers – and we have this gorgeous set from Renzo Piano, that he built us, so the fact that we roam around and do interviews and always get people in their cubes, that we do it in the lunchroom, that to me is a very important part of the DNA of the show.
If I have any gifts in video – and I’m certainly not one of the first people you’d put on video – I’m very good with other people, whether it’s man on the street or Tony, I think he’s one of the best working critics in America, and I think the stuff he talks about is interesting. The fact that we genuinely like each other – one thing that does travel across platforms, on Web and television, I think chemistry is really important. And we’ve had disagreements about this or that, but we like each other and that’s visible and palpable. So I think that matters.
Whether it’ll continue to be a little curio that we do or will aggregate an audience around that – don’t know. But I think the video realms, it’s very important – right now the WSJ has a video blog where people are just doing little feeds off their phone, and people are going: What is the purpose of that? And I think, just giving it a whirl over and over again, the endless iteration and trying out stuff – that will be answer in video realms, because nobody has solved the math. I had lunch with Peter Kafka the other day and we talked about: Where is the good video on the web? And the fact that the Journal is trying stuff, you’re trying stuff, we’re trying stuff – eventually something’s gonna work. And I’m very bullish on NYT’s video prospects, partly because – if Israel took action against Iran tomorrow, I think you should be able to turn us on. I think we know more than almost anybody and I think you should be able to switch us on, and I can see a time within the next 5 to 6 years when signal events in global or United States culture happen, that you’ll switch on your television or whatever it’s called, your phone or your tablet – and the New York Times will be there, talking to you. I have every confidence in that.
This interview has been condensed and edited.