Just over a year after The New York Times’ digital subscription model was launched, it provides the company with “incredible” audience data, the company’s chairman and CEO Arthur Sulzberger says at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe conference in London.
A total of 454,000 people have subscribed (not including print subscribers), and Sulzberger says much of the scepticism that abounded when the plan was first announced has since subsided. Given the number of media executives who have visited the paper’s offices over the last year, he expects many more payment models for digital content to be unveiled before long.
As well as the obvious financial benefit, Sulzberger noted that a key advantage of the subscription model is what it tells the paper about its audience’s reading habits.
Through the subscription model the Times has learnt that at the beginning of the day, many subscribers go to the Times in any format – print, tablet, phone or web – to scan the headlines. During the day, they look at the web or their smartphones, and in the evening they return to the print or tablet editions. The same subscribers tends to access the paper across multiple platforms, with different motivations, and the challenge now is to find better ways to deliver content most effectively across all devices, Sulzberger said.
The New York Times is focusing on four specific areas for investment: mobile offerings, social media, global reach, and video, Sulzberger said. “We believe that there is real growth potential in each,” he said. “To build an R&D mentality is critical to what we do – knowing that we have to take risks and accepting that we might fail,” he added.
The paper is looking at ways to extend its global reach, in cooperation with its sister paper, the International Herald Tribune. Twelve per cent of digital subscribers live outside the USA, and via the news services syndicate, the paper delivers articles daily to other papers around the world. In looking for new audiences, “we’re focused particularly on countries with growing economies,” Sulzberger said, adding that the paper is exploring native language websites and apps.
The Times is keenly growing its video operation, Sulzberger said, aiming to create video that “inspires the same interest, trust and loyalty” as the paper’s text and photo journalism. Video is a key part of the multimedia re-imagining, he said, as well as being a major growth area in online advertising.