NY Times Abandons Subscriptions for NYT Now, Making App Free

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The New York Times has abandoned subscriptions for its iOS app, NYT Now, just a year after its launch, making the updated app, NYT Now 2.0, free. Prior to the “reboot” as The Verge calls it, the app was available to subscribers for $7.99 a month.The experiment was The Times’ attempt to create a new digital experience for mobile news consumers – an app that went beyond regurgitating stories in The Time’s print edition. According to an article on The Verge, the numbers weren’t sufficient to continue the subscriptions:”We have seen very high engagement and retention among our NYT Now users, [but] we have not seen the number of subscriptions we were hoping for,” a Times’ rep told The Verge.With only 20,000 subscriptions in its first year, according to Capital New York, the NYT Now app was not successful enough to continue as a paid product, especially since the majority of users were already subscribers to The New York Times. The Times transformed NYT Now into a free, ad-supported model, redesigning it to appeal to its target audience – millennials.NYT Now 2.0 contains many of the features that its predecessor had, including the morning briefing and popular online stories from The Times as well as stories curated from other sources. It also includes ads, photos and videos, making the app visually appealing and simple to navigate. While the original version of the app had about 25 stories from The Times, it now only has about 10. For now, only iPhone users can access the app; an Android version is not yet in the works.Insider Take:While this experiment didn’t yield the expected results and the company reported a $14 million net loss for Q1 of 2015, The New York Times remains the top U.S. newspaper with a paywall and the second highest for digital traffic in January 2015 paywall (see our summary of Pew’s State of the Media Report 2015 for other newspapers’ rankings).Its digital subscriber base is growing. In fact, it grew 20% in the first quarter of this year to a total of 957,000. Its digital advertising revenue for the first quarter increased 11%. The ad-supported NYT Now 2.0 app will likely add to that revenue this year.The Times has not yet found its digital sweet spot, but it is always experimenting to discover what works and what will attract and retain subscribers. It gathers data and evaluates it carefully before determining its next move. The company is also nimble and isn’t afraid to take calculated risks. These traits have helped the company adapt in an ever-changing media landscape where technology and audience segments are moving targets. 

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