Learning from WaPo and NYT’s Success: 3 Takeaways for Subscription Companies

The Washington Post has been shaking things up this year, and it looks like it’s working. Last week the Post reported that it had a record month in September, with stats compliments of comScore. Among the Post’s bragging rights:

  • 2 million unique visitors, a 41% increase year over year
  • 4 million unique mobile visitors, a 69% increase year over year
  • Desktop growth of 12%
Learning from WaPo and NYTÂ’s Success: 3 Takeaways for Subscription Companies

As the Washingtonian points out, the key piece of data is not shown in the Post’s report. The Post is gaining on the New York Times in terms of unique visitors. In August, for example, Newsonomic’s Ken Doctor noted in August that the New York Times had 59.7 million unique visitors. In September, the Times had 66 million unique visitors. In other words, the game is on, and it looks like the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper is closing in on the Times.How is this possible? The Washington Post has been making big changes since he bought the newspaper in 2013, and those changes are paying off. Doctor cites three key reasons for the Post’s success:

  • Investment in the newsroom
  • Leveraging technology and using its data to better understand its audience
  • Growing its audience through partnerships

Jeff Bezos may not be a native newspaperman, but he is a brilliant businessman, and he knows how to hire the right people. He knows how to employ a strategy, measure it, and keep what’s working while ditching the rest.At the same time, as Doctor deftly explains for Politico, the numbers only tell us part of the story. Sure, WaPo had a great September, and its mobile numbers are growing, but the New York Times has surpassed the 1 million mark in terms of subscribers. That’s also impressive. And does it really matter if two of the most venerable institutions in America’s media world compete directly or not?Insider Take:What really matters here is that each organization is trying to find its sweet spot in the digital age. They are each trying different strategies and tactics while leveraging their strengths to grow their respective audiences and ad revenue. They are succeeding in different ways and subscription companies can learn from their examples. Here are a few takeaways we can learn from:

  1. Maximize mobile traffic by offering products and services in a mobile-optimized, not just mobile-friendly, environment. This includes faster load times.
  2. Embrace partnerships to reach new audiences. The New York Times and the Washington Post are both doing this in relationships where no money changes hands. They partner with other news organizations, hotels, other subscription companies (e.g., Evernote and NYT) and companies that can help them expand their reach.
  3. Study the data and make smart decisions based on subscriber and non-subscriber behavior.

We are just scraping the surface here. There are many lessons we can learn from these two great organizations. We’ll cover more lessons in a future post.~ Dana E. Neuts, Subscription Insider