More than 2 years into New York Times paywall move, readers fund more than 50% of revenues

Yasmin Namini, INMA president and senior vice president/chief consumer officer of The New York Times, has been a witness and participant of many events that directly address the changing media landscape: the introduction of colour, the transition to a national newspaper, and, most recently, the launch of a pay model.

In all cases, the decisions were controversial at the times they were introduced, she told delegates at the 2013 INMA European Conference in Berlin. And only time could help prove they were wise decisions.

“Decisions we make today will carry us to the next era,” Namini said.

Some elements of the media business remain unchanged. Namini believes in great journalism, the kind published in The New York Times and by all publishers in attendance. She is sure that quality journalism is worth paying for, and feels the fundamentals of great journalism must remain intact.

Revenue diversification is the biggest challenge of them all, Namini said. This is why The New York Times introduced its paywall in March of 2011.

There had been a rapid decline in advertising since 2008, yet circulation revenue was growing. The New York Times started to rely more and more on the readers to close the digital advertising gap.

Circulation revenue became the biggest revenue source for the news media company, with more than half of company revenues now coming from readers, thanks primarily to the decision to launch the paywall.

Namini reported US$75.1 million of new revenue came from digital subscriptions in the first half of this year.

Depending on the bundle, The New York Times charges US$15, US$20, or US$25 for a monthly subscription, arriving at this pricing by:

  • Conducting research to assess the current demand curve.

  • Considering print and digital businesses together.

  • Considering advertising and consumer businesses together.

  • Opimising for EBITDA.

One of the biggest surprises in the paywall move, according to Namini, was that print benefited from digital subscriptions as well. When online readers reached the limit of free articles, many of them decided to buy the print subscription.

New York Times now has 700,000+ paid digital subscribers. There still is a large and growing number of people willing to pay for the news media companys’ digital content, Namini said.

And even though digital subscription growth slowed down a bit in 2013, the company has a plan: launching new products.

The long term strategy for NYT includes investing in four new areas, Namini reported:

  1. Create new digital subscription products. The company will continue to grow core digital products, add a wider range of new digital products and services, and add an enhanced tier. Plans are to roll them out in the next year.

  2. International expansion. Rebranding the International Herald Tribune will help expand the international subscription base, localise purchase process, and attract high-volume users.

  3. Invest in video. The New York Times is developing a robust and comprehensive presence in video, making gains in streaming and monetising, while broadening distribution.

  4. Brand extensions. The company is focused on games, e-commerce, and conferences. 

About Marek Miller

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