Despite its nearly 170-year history, B2B sales are a relatively new part of The New York Times’ offerings. According to Andy Wright, senior vice president/head of global enterprise subscriptions, B2B has only been part of its product lineup for about a decade. But that was changing as 2020 began, and the year quickly presented new opportunities for attracting corporate subscriptions.
“At the beginning of last year, we had been looking at the enterprise side of things,” Wright said. “While there hadn’t been a formal product for the corporate side, we had been providing organisations with group subscriptions for many years. We could see tremendous opportunities.”
As the pandemic blanketed the world, those opportunities blossomed. Demand for information was at an all-time high, and shaping product offerings for the B2B market became an important part of the news media company’s subscription strategy.
“The pandemic obviously brought financial challenges to institutions. I would say that made our desire even greater to be able to provide companies with what they were looking for,” Wright said. “We knew we could provide solutions to the problems employers have and give them content that can live in the employer’s channel.”
Changing packaging, not content
With more than 1,700 employees around the world, the NYT already had the feet on the street to capture the information readers were looking for. Rather than alter what it offered in terms of news and information, Wright said the company focused on changing the way it packaged information for business subscribers. Working with the licensing team and the newsroom, it created packages that would appeal to companies in many different verticals.
“For example, one thing that people were very interested in last year was healthcare. We could provide that information, and that carried over into other areas. From financial and business news all the way into entertainment and culture. And we were able to provide all of it.”
Because of its far-reaching coverage — both in topics and geography — NYT didn’t need to create new content verticals. Kristy Schultz, vice president of growth, print + enterprise subscriptions, said the Times’ B2B model is access-driven and ensures employees are getting content that is relevant to them.
“We have not, to date, made the product any different,” she said. “The experience is the same for the B2B reader as the consumer subscriber. The primary differences are the way you grant access to the reader and who pays for it.”
The journey to B2B
Launching a new business model, such as the B2B offerings, should depend on developing an existing strength, not creating new content vertical while also creating a new model, Schultz said: “You should do one or the other. Either take the product you have and market that to a new customer, or create a new product for an existing customer base.”
Attempting to create a new product for a new business vertical is taking on more than most news companies will be able to manage successfully. Leveraging a company’s core strengths and coverage — whether at a local level or international — and cultivating that into a B2B vertical allows teams to focus on building the business without having to develop an entirely new product.
And, while B2B appears an attractive market segment for most publishers, she said the operational complexity needs to be closely examined to see if it’s viable.
“There are a lot of things to consider, like how will companies sign contracts and how do you ensure access to make sure their employees are seeing the stories they want them to see? There’s more to look at. The thing I would look at is how much manual work do you have to add to get the deals, and are the resources you have to add worth what you have to gain?”
Wright added that embarking on a B2B journey takes a commitment of time and resources.
“To do it right, you have to invest in it. You have to have the sales resources. You have to have the bandwidth and support to give your customers what they’re looking for. And then you have to be able to educate them about how to use the product and how to engage their employees so that you can retain them.”
Banner photo by Frieder Blickle/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
This case study appeared in the INMA report, The Growing Promise of B2B in Media's Reader Revenue Model.