Editor’s note: This is one of 19 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “Smartphone App Lessons for Media Companies,” released in July.
As one of the world’s leading news organisations, The New York Times “is focused on being everywhere our readers are,” says Scott Stanchak, managing director of mobile marketing. That means offering a variety of mobile products with dedicated marketing, product, and engineering teams working on platforms that include iOS, Android, and the mobile Web.
“Smartphone apps are becoming increasingly important as we provide content to readers wherever they are, whenever they want it,” Stanchak says. “Mobile traffic now makes up about 50% of our overall digital traffic. As marketers, we need to be smart about how and who we target with our communication on these devices.”
That means carefully targeted messages through e-mail, social media, and display ads, Stanchak says. His team works to acquire new subscribers through mobile properties, including apps and the Times’ Web site.
“We not only are using marketing strategy to acquire profitable consumers at an optimal cost, but also working to improve conversion in-app and on-site to create a frictionless subscription funnel,” he says.
As readers increasingly shift their news consumption from desktop to mobile, the Times continues to develop better products for readers in the United States and around the world, Stanchak says. Its internal development team, which builds all The Times’ apps, released updates for its iPhone and Android apps earlier this year.
But the innovation isn’t limited to its developers; The Times now has a dedicated team in the newsroom that is curating and writing content for an audience that will engage with it through smartphones — and now through the Apple Watch.
Beyond its central news app and the NYT Now app (featuring specially curated content from The Times and other sources), The Times also offers niche apps for real estate, cooking, crossword puzzles, and a guide to New York City. And it plans to continue to explore other niche opportunities, Stanchak says.
Because The Times has moved quickly to develop products as new platforms have emerged, it has “some of the most mature products in the app stores today,” he says. “We’ve been on iTunes and Google Play, as well as Blackberry Apps World and Windows App Store, since practically the beginning.”
Revenues come from in-app ads and from subscriptions. The Times’ digital pricing structure is US$14.99 per month for smartphone and NYTimes.com access, US$19.99 for tablet and NYTimes.com access, US$34.99 for All Digital Access, and US$44.99 for Times Premier, which includes full digital access and a long list of special perks.
The Times works with an attribution partner to measure the success of its marketing campaigns, tagging each campaign with a specific link to track the actual performance in terms of installations, subscriptions, registrations, and other metrics.
The Times’ data shows that app users have a higher retention rate and tend to be Times loyalists, Stanchak says. “You don’t have apps on your phone from companies you don’t use,” he says. “Mix loyalty in with an optimal one-click purchase process and that holds a lot of value.”
For the future, Stanchak’s team is working to continue attracting new subscribers through mobile channels — whatever the term “mobile” may come to mean in the next five years, or 10, or 20.
“It used to be smartphone, then tablet came in the market, now we’re on wrists,” he says. “There will be a point where mobile and desktop blend and those silos disappear. We have world-class apps and a tremendous mobile Web site. Our content is what The New York Times is all about, and without it we wouldn’t be selling subscriptions.
“Finding new innovative ways, products, and platforms to tell our stories and connect with readers is where we’ll continue to grow, as well continuing to build our audience across the globe.”