In the world of increasingly digital everything, it isn’t exactly novel news that newspapers have been struggling to adapt and stay relevant. Print media has been decaying, as more and more people prefer to read the news in an online format rather than through the traditional newspapers or magazines. And most reporting agencies have had a tough time adjusting to this changed reality. For some reason or another, they have not been able to replicate their former print news success in the digital sphere.
However, there has been a renewed energy at some of the best newspapers in the country. They have recently decided to give this digital thing another (better) shot. So for this blog post, I will take a look into my favorite newsroom: The New York Times.
The New York Times
This classic newspaper has announced its focus on what they call “Project 2020,” which involves a strategy to greatly increase its digital subscribers and digital revenue by 2020. They have already recognized that in order to secure the newspaper’s future success, it needs to prove two things: that the digital news subscription model can indeed be successful, and that it can be the leader in doing so.
Last year, the New York Times officially passed one million digital-only subscribers, and it now has over 1.5 million digital-only subscribers. These numbers mean that their digital-only subscriber numbers are very high in comparison to other major news sources (The Boston Globe has 80,000 digital-only subscription members so far). Yet despite that success, the New York Times knows that “For all the progress we have made, we still have not built a digital business large enough on its own to support a newsroom that can fulfill our ambitions. To secure our future, we need to expand substantially our number of subscribers by 2020.” It may be the top journalism hub, but that does not mean it is succeeding enough to survive the technological changes that seem to be here to stay. Thus, here are a few of the things that the iconic newsroom have been doing:
- It is NOT attempting to win through click-through ads. It has decided that it will focus on its classic subscription profit model, rather than trying to profit through click-through ads in the manner that many other media organizations have. And perhaps this is a smart strategy, as The New York Times realizes that it (and other traditional newsrooms) cannot really compete with the enormously large clout of major digital platforms such as Facebook. What it can compete on is its ability to provide people with strong, relevant journalism—and therefore, it has decided to excel at what it can do rather than poorly attempting to do the same things as its competitors. I agree with this decision, and I think it does need to stay true to what could be considered its core competency.
- It is appealing to the millennial population through more “hip” efforts, such as a partnership with Spotify. The temporary partnership between the two subscription-based programs meant that if a new subscriber agreed to the one-year All-Access digital subscription to The New York Times, he or she would also get the special benefit of getting access to Spotify’s premium music streaming service for that year. This effort could certainly help The New York Times reach an audience that it may not have touched before, since many people in the millennial consumer segment tend to get their news from social media sources rather than from the traditional newsrooms. And because Spotify has become a highly desirable platform for quite a large number of millennials, I feel as though it is very conceivable that more people will be convinced to subscribe to this $5 a week steal of a deal.
- It is focusing on a new ad campaign centered on its pursuit of “The Truth.” You can take a look at it here. First and foremost, the New York Times stands on the concept that it provides people with high quality journalism—and it wants people to understand that fact, despite all of the issues with fake news, alternative facts, etc. that have plagued newsrooms in recent times. So in response to the tense political climate and the various controversies that have surrounded the media within the last year, The New York Times really wants to reinforce to people that it has extremely high journalistic standards and always searches for the truth. To help convey this central message, it has launched a significant advertising campaign that began with a 30-second ad during the Academy Awards at the end of February. I think that this message is a very important one for people to understand, because dependability and accuracy are crucial considerations that people think about when they are deciding where to get their news.
I think if any traditional newspaper has the potential to overcome the challenges of the digital age, it would be The New York Times. It knows it needs to change, and it seems to have a decently good plan for how it is going to do so. And while it will not be an easy journey, I believe its renewed efforts, including the ones I have mentioned in this blog post, will help it find its legs in this new arena.