The New York Times: Renewed Efforts In The Digital Age

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 wouldnyt_spotify-TEXT-2017 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.
  3. 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.

 

Final Thoughts:

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.

11 comments

  1. Great post Christine! I think they are in a position that they can decide to stay away from the click through ads, which is too tempting for other media outlets. Really interesting to read about their partnership with Spotify! I think that this is a great strategy. It took me a long time to change from iTunes song ownership model to the Spotify subscription based model, but I haven’t looked back. I think coupling the NYT with Spotify is a great approach because any negative associations one might have with a subscription based model could be reduced by the suggestion that the NYTs offers similar value to subscribers. Great post!

  2. diiorion · ·

    It’s interesting to see the ways that traditional newspaper outlets have been trying to pivot and replicate their previous success in the digital space. I think it’s a very smart idea for platforms like the NYT to partner with other services (like Spotify) in order to increase their subscriber base. With so many ways to consume news in this day and age, many users may need an additional incentive to subscribe to such a traditional news service instead of relying on Twitter and other such platforms. I also can’t imagine that the “Fake News” hysteria is spurring many potential users to sign up for traditional news services that are squarely in the cross hairs of the POTUS. But the concentration on journalism and not ad revenue and partnering with other popular services both seem like solid steps in the right direction if they hope to survive.

  3. mollyshields44 · ·

    I really enjoyed this post! I think your example of NYT is a great one as they are ahead of their competitors in the digital space. A large portion of it, I think, is due to their strong brand. For instance, you mentioned that the NYT has over 1.5 million digital subscribers whereas the Boston Globe only has 80,000. That is a huge difference and I believe it is largely due to the fact that people all over the country, and the world, have a stronger connection to that brand than that of the Boston Globe. I did not know about the partnership with Spotify but I think it is a great one. As someone who tries to pay attention to the news and also loves the benefits of Spotify premium, that would be a perfect partnership for me. Additionally, I think keeping up with the newsroom’s social media will also play a big role in dominating the digital presence. I checked out the NYT’s Instagram and not only do they have over 2.5 million followers but their content and pictures are top notch (enticing me to actually follow them)! It will surely be a battle for digital dominance as print continues to decrease and it will take nonstop effort to grow the business online for news sources to stay competitive.

  4. aecharl · ·

    Great post! I told myself I would make more of an effort to be a consumer of online newspapers when I started business school. However, I have actually found that getting the newspaper’s same content but from their Twitter accounts or Instagram accounts to be much more effective for me, given my busy schedule and inability to read full stories on days when I am swamped. I am very curious to see how users will interact with newspapers over the next five, ten and twenty years!

  5. benrmcarthur · ·

    Great post! I think you brought a lot of insight that is generally unknown about the NY Times. I genuinely think the pursuit for a profit model that IS NOT from click-through revenue will eventually win over the public. I’ve found that news sources that contain click-through models (i.e. when you have to the next slide to continue a story) are poorly written and just not what “news” should be. I think items like that and things such as sponsored content will deter the public away from these scummy sources and move the reading back to great companies like the NY Times. I think the spotify partnership is a great idea. I know I pay my student discount for the WSJ, but would easily combine my spotify membership to cover both.

  6. fayehubregsen · ·

    During a time when Americans are consuming a lot of news online from scattered unvetted sources, the NY Times is wise to demonstrate to users that they can compete amidst the rapidly evolving digital landscape and offer new online services and features (including personalized fitness recommendations, newsbots, VR experiences). However, the ultimate competitive advantage that the Times should capitalize on is a dedication towards uncontaminated journalism, so that a subscription is essential to people seeking truth and relevance that they cannot count on elsewhere.

  7. zfarkas17 · ·

    Great post! personally I like the feeling of holding the paper but I recognize that is on the way out. I think that traditional papers like the NYT and WSJ benefit from a consumer base that trusts the news they report and also likes the variety of reporting. Although I think sticking with the traditional subscriber model is the better option to not dilute the brand, it might be tough as other news sources viewed as reputable continue to grow with click through ads. I’m happy to hear that they are actively pursuing a solution to the growing problem.

  8. cjprall · ·

    Great post. I think the only difference between the New York Times and any other newspaper is that “trust” that’s built into their brand. Their brand is strong enough that I think whatever model they pursue will probably dictate what other major outlets like the Boston Globe ultimately do after paper editions continue to disappear. I’ve seen different methods suggested from your average monthly subscription to micropayments of 99 cents an article for access. In a world of personal blogs and fake news, I’d like to think one reputable source could produce a model that makes reliable news easy to consume in a digital world. But I’ll be honest, I pay $5/month for Spotify but don’t see myself paying $5/week for Spotify and the Times. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how their subscription numbers play out through 2020.

  9. Interesting post- great topic! This post got me wondering about the actual use of “hard copy” newspapers and how that market is doing. I’m sure it’s dwindling, but at the same time I think there are a lot of markets that still want or need a real newspaper over a digital one. For example, people who can’t afford a tablet or a TV might still purchase a print version of the paper. Plus, there are a ton of people who would just rather not read off a screen, which is why we still have hard copy books versus just kindles/nooks. And then there’s more local newspapers with information specific to that town or area, like police blotter, local engagements, coupons for local stores, etc. I’m curious to see how that type of print transitions to digital in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

  10. drewsimenson · ·

    Great post! I heard an article on NPR this week that says Google and other platforms are considering limiting access to advertisers, essentially making ad spots more expensive and being more selective about the banner and video ad content that interrupts the experience of users online. I thought this was interesting because it sounds like the effect would be similar to what happened with TV, where you had coveted “prime time” ad spots that were really expensive and that networks would reserve for top quality material. I wonder whether this might impact NYT’s approach re: point #1. On a somewhat political note, I also find it very interesting to see NYT’s emphasis on journalistic integrity, as we see this is a major theme across many networks and news sources to combat the “fake news” epidemic. I personally see NYT as being very prone to demonstrating left-wing bias in their reporting practices in a manner that has opened them up to criticism from moderates and the right. I would love to see their new tools help them to overcome that issue (to be clear, I find myself often agreeing with opinions expressed on NYT online, but feel like there is a lot of influence of editorial opinion on how facts are presented).

  11. Nice post. I confess that I really fear for the print news industry. It’s going to be hard to find a new business model (like the music industry has) to keep them going.

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