International New York Times builds its global brand with local bent

By Tom Kulaga

For more than four decades, The New York Times published the International Herald Tribune, an English-language newspaper for readers outside of the United States that had earned loyal patronage and deep respect among an elite group of readers and luxury advertisers during its 125-year history.

The International Herald Tribune’s audience — English speakers living outside the United States — historically accounted for only a small portion of The New York Times Company’s worldwide customer base.

Extensive research, however, demonstrated a vibrant opportunity for growth in this demographic. Moreover, this research indicated that, among this group of potential subscribers, The New York Times brand outpaced the International Herald Tribune brand in key performance measures, including familiarity, consideration, brand ratings, and preference.

With the goal of better serving and growing this target group, the International Herald Tribune and the digital Global edition of The New York Times were collectively reintroduced as the International New York Times (INYT) on October 15, 2013. 

In building this global brand, The Times realised it was essential to communicate local relevancy to key geographic sub-segments of the INYT’s audience.

Using traffic data, the company identified regions with an abundance of non-subscribing visitors to the INYT Web site but a smaller share of paying users. The company then sought to reach these potential subscribers in ways that reinforced the INYT’s local relevance. 

The price of a digital subscription was expressed in local currencies among three strategically important large groups — in the United Kingdom, the Eurozone, and India. In the U.K., for example, the introductory offer was presented as “Under £1 for your first 12 weeks” versus “99¢ for your first 12 weeks.” 

Key messages in subscription sales materials were expressed both in English and the local language, the hypothesis being that communicating benefits and an offer in a user’s native tongue would accelerate decision-making and purchase. 

Audience development efforts used recommendation engines to customise content promoted to target segments. Optimisation software by Outbrain enabled regional users to see sponsored INYT links that were the most visited by like-minded, nearby users.

While the INYT launch was hugely successful in terms of Web site usage and subscriptions sold on a global level, several local marketing efforts worldwide produced even greater lifts.

First, in terms of Web site usage, the spike seen after the launch was tremendous, thanks both to the launch and to the regionally optimised audience development campaign.

For the period from the INYT’s launch through the end of that week (Tuesday through Saturday, October 15–19, 2013), worldwide visitors increased by more than 50%, with page views increasing an even higher percentage, as compared to traffic Tuesday through Saturday the week before.

Comparing traffic versus the equivalent Tuesday through Saturday the year before, worldwide visitors were up by nearly one-third, and page views were up by nearly half.

Also, INYT digital subscriptions significantly rose thanks to the rebranding. New orders from the target segment — English speakers outside the United States — more than doubled during the week of launch versus the previous week and in subsequent weeks remained higher than the pre-launch average.

With regard to locally relevant marketing presentations, our biggest win came from the in-currency work. The company ran A/B tests to compare the traditional U.S. dollars presentation with an in-currency expression, and found that in-currency variations lifted orders by nearly 15% versus the control.

Moving forward, The Times will continue to tailor its value proposition and proof points for each local market, based on country-specific research. As a new twist on that old adage might conclude, “All marketing is local.”

About Tom Kulaga

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