The New York Times Cuts Number of Free Articles in Half
Capitalizing on its digital-only subscriber growth
Last Friday The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) tightened its metered paywall, cutting the number of free articles non-subscribers can read from 10 to five, reports Bloomberg. It is the first change The Times has made to its paywall since April 2012 when readers could access 20 articles for free, according to The Verge. The goal, of course, is to continue growing its digital-only subscriber base of approximately 2.5 million as of the end of the third quarter.
The normal pricing for the newspaper’s digital-only subscriptions, which includes online access and access to all its news apps and archives, ranges from $15.99 a month (basic) to $26.99 a month (all access), but is currently being discounted to $9.99 and $16.99 a month, respectively.
The basic plan also offers discounts to The Times Store, Film Club and Wine Club, while the all access plan includes access to NYTimes Crossword and NYTimes Cooking and a bonus all access subscription to give as a gift. The Times also offers student rates, currently discounted to $1.00 per week (basic) and $1.50 a week (all access) after a four-week free trial.
In an interview with Bloomberg, New York Times’ executive vice president and COO Meredith Kopit Levien said that demand for quality journalism is ‘at an all-time high,’ and this is a good time to leverage their unique reporting and reputation.
‘It’s a very hot news cycle. We think it’s as good conditions as any to demonstrate to people that high-quality journalism is something to be paid for,’ Levien told Bloomberg.
Will this help the Times achieve its goals to offset falling ad revenue with digital subscriptions? Probably. Since last year’s presidential election, the Times has had good success, leveraging its exclusive coverage of hot topics of the day, including President Trump and Hollywood and government sexual scandals, and reputation for quality journalism.
As we reported last month, in the third quarter of 2017, the Times added 154,000 net digital-only subscriptions, a 14 percent increase over the same period last year. This included digital-only subscriptions to its news product as well as to NYT Cooking and NYT Crossword, which are now available as stand-alone subscriptions. Revenue from digital-only subscriptions for the third quarter was $85.7 million, a 46.3 percent increase year-over-year.
‘These results reflect the ongoing strength of our digital strategy and continued demand for quality, in-depth journalism,’ said Mark Thompson, president and CEO of The New York Times Company in a press release.
There is no magical one-size-fits-all formula for paywalls in the digital news arena, but The New York Times has done a pretty good job of getting it right. They have not made a lot of changes, but they have had a handful of successful experiments, including partnerships with Spotify and selling NYT Cooking and NYT Crossword as stand-alone products. They test and adjust incrementally, as they figure out what works. Five may or may not be the magic number, but it is worth an experiment to find their sweet spot. If the Times finds that this model is not workable, they can easily adjust it. No harm, no foul.