More than a third of all traffic to The New York Times generates from a mobile device, said Alexandra Hardiman, The Times' Director of Mobile Products at the 5th Tablet and App Summit. And when the paper live-streamed the recent presidential debates, 40% of streamers watched on a mobile device.
Mobile has hence become a key part of the paper’s business, and The Times is putting a great deal of attention into cross-platform usage and mobile-first design, Hardiman said. The fact that tablet use is high in evenings is a very exciting prospect for a news organisation without a broadcast operation, she added, as it is a time of day that papers usually struggle to reach readers.
Tablet and smartphone access is also a key element of The Times’ digital subscription model that has “re-balanced our business,” Hardiman said. The New York Times had 566k paid digital subscribers in Q3, an increase of 11% from the preceding quarter. Perhaps more surprisingly, Hardiman specified that the paper’s print home delivery circulation also increased.
The New York Times recently introduced an HTML5-based web app to its suite of tablet-focused offerings, and Hardiman stressed that the paper is “equally invested in native and web apps,” when it comes to mobile publishing. “We are not abandoning native, and we are not leaving iTunes,” she said, seemingly to cut off speculation that the web app had been a step in the direction of the Financial Times, which has taken its core news app completely out of Apple’s store.
“iOS is by far the biggest mobile platform for us,” she said, pointing out that the paper has no less than six standalone apps for Apple products: two core news apps (one for iPhone one for iPad), an election 2012 app, a lifestyle app called The Collection, a New York City app called The Scoop, and a real estate app.
The New York Times also has Android apps and just launched a Windows 8 app. For each app, the paper worked closely with the OS provider to make sure that the app fits the specific user experience as well as possible. “You can't take iOS designs and put them in a different shell,” Hardiman said: “You need to build natively and take advantage of native opportunities.”
The HTML5 app began as an experiment, Hardiman explained, that allowed the Times to explore ideas that might be too risky for native apps. “It’s a tool to reward experimental journalism,” she said. The web app offers readers three different views:
1. Today's paper view – for readers wanting a bounded experience
2. Trending view – called Cascade, this uses bit.ly data to see which NYT articles have been trending on Twitter
3. Times Wire View - a reverse chronological view of content published
The New York Times is striving to “be where the people are” and in response to positive feedback from its subscribers about aggregators, also has a presence on apps such as Flipboard, and the new Bing News app which comes pre-loaded on all Windows 8 devices.