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The New York Times Outlines Plan to Reach 15M Subscribers by EOY 2027

Strategy includes engaging paid subscribers in other paid products and leveraging the company’s purchase of The Athletic.

At The New York Times Company’s Investor Day 2022, the company outlined their plans to reach 15 million paid subscribers by the end of 2027. The company currently has more than 9 million subscribers, and the Times believes it can continue to growth by further engaging those subscribers with other paid products while also attracting and retaining new subscribers. Their previous goal was 10 million paid subscribers by 2025. However, the company raised their goal to 15 million in February on the heels of two acquisitions – Wordle and The Athletic.

“We believe we can become the essential subscription for every curious, English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world. With this strategy, there is a tremendous long-term growth opportunity to attract and retain a larger audience driven by an expansive and connected product experience that makes us indispensable to millions of people in their daily lives,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, president and CEO of The New York Times Company, in a June 13, 2022 news release distributed in conjunction with Investor Day.

Strategy for subscription growth

In the investor presentation itself, The Times laid out its plans for achieving the 15 million paid subscriber milestone.

  • The company currently has a range of subscription products, ranging from print and digital news products, NYT Cooking, NYT Games, a consumer review subscription through Wirecutter, plus sports and bundle options. They continue to test new products and product mixes to see what appeals to subscribers.
  • For example, The Times purchased Wordle in February. Wordle is a wildly popular once-a-day word game that has attracted millions of players around the world. While currently a free offering, this could easily be folded into NYT Games or even as a standalone subscription. At the time of the acquisition, The Times said the game would remain free to new and existing players and no changes will be made to how the game is played. Though players will notice slight adjustments, it seems likely that this will become a paid offering.
  • In the News app, The Times is testing a Games tab called Play to try to engage news subscribers with NYT Games, reports Axios.

Leveraging The Athletic

The New York Times kicked off the new year with a major purchase. In an all-cash deal, The Times bought The Athletic, a digital sports news outlet that covers 200 sports clubs and teams around the world. This added a lucrative asset to The Times’ portfolio, broadening their reach to sports fans willing to pay for news of their favorite sports and teams.

“Acquiring The Athletic puts us in a position to be a global leader in sports journalism and offer English speakers around the world another reason to turn to the Times Company to meet their daily news and life needs. The Times already provides distinctive sports coverage for a general interest audience as part of our core report,” said Levien in a January 6, 2022 news release.

“As a stand-alone product, The Athletic will enable us to offer much more — extensive coverage for fans who seek a deep connection to and understanding of their favorite teams, leagues and players. With one of the largest dedicated teams of reporters covering sports globally and a commitment to everyday reporting, The Athletic is a great complement to The Times,” Levien added.

Axios reports that The Times will add The Athletic to a subscription bundle for no additional charge and let nonsubscribers to read some content for free before signing up. Estimates by David Perpich, the publisher of The Athletic, put the number of subscribers who will pay for sports news at about 24 million in the U.S.

Insider Take

The New York Times is the gold standard for subscription news media. They are a globally well-known and respected brand with a solid subscriber base. With a range of standalone and bundled subscription products, increasing the average revenue per user should be easy to achieve as current subscribers add products to their existing subscriptions. With strategic acquisitions of Wordle and The Athletic, The Times has something no one else has, and the legacy media company is betting on it. We think their goal of 15 million might be on the low side.  

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