The Times revisits traditional publishing schedule

By Bob Provost

Rutgers Business School

Newark, New Jersey, USA


I read the March 27, 2017, edition of John Kelly’s “Daily Clips” with appreciation for the phrase “what goes around, comes around.”

In Kelly’s collection of media and marketing news on that day were references to Amazon’s forays into developing retail store locations, growing reluctance among marketers to rush to the “latest and greatest” technologies until ROI is proven, and, perhaps most intriguing to me, a newspaper that has taken a step back from the “latest is greatest” model of presenting news.

The Times has committed to publishing content three times a day.
The Times has committed to publishing content three times a day.

In a Digiday article, the British newspaper The Times shares some of the results from its shift away from the recency model of digital news delivery (publishing stories as they break and rolling news as it occurs) to a more traditional, multiple-edition-based model.

It was not so long ago that most newsrooms embraced their ability to be late-breaking by presenting digital news in a rolling format that essentially assumed the more recent the news (recency), the more important it was.

Curating the news was, to a large degree, delegated to a clock. Readers had to scroll through a lot of recently reported yet potentially unimportant content to find the news significant to the day.

Well, The Times made the bold move to publish digital editions at regular times each day (at 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m.). This paradigm is a truly “back-to-the-future” strategy, mirroring the print publishing paradigm of the pre-radio, pre-TV news era.

The Digiday article did not explore the choice of times, but I suspect the team at The Times took a hard look at its audience’s daily habits, existing Web traffic, and other market factors. The timing was not random.

The outcome has not been random either. Although the story was reported on March 27, the statistics provided are from 2016. Still, a 200% increase in new, paid subscription sales and a 4% reduction in churn are compelling. Catherine Newman, chief marketing officer at The Times and Sunday Times, offered several perspectives worth noting in the article.

  • The move from rolling, late-breaking news to an updated edition at 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. appears to have resonated with audience members, who see the edition timing as something of “an appointment” to check in and stay informed. This, too, is reminiscent of the print editions of times gone by.
  • While major breaking news stories are still compelling and generate plenty of traffic, the edition format has enabled the marketing team to more work closely with the news team and communicate and engage more effectively with subscribers. Acquisition (converting free to paid) and retention (reducing churn) efforts can be more strategic, rooted in greater knowledge of what will be offered and when.
  • Enhanced collaboration with the newsroom has enabled the marketing team to capitalise on lifestyle-oriented features that appeal to target demographics. You can’t make the breaking news, it just happens and you cover it.

    With lifestyle-oriented news features, you have more control over your product and your destiny. One example cited was an article titled “What women really think about maternity leave (but won’t say).” It generated 100,000 unique visitors. Newman further observed that audience growth driven by lifestyle content tends to be younger and more female — both desirable attributes.

If the information above is of interest to you, I encourage you to read the complete article at Digiday.

About Bob Provost

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