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Digital Audience Development: How the Times Hit 1 Million Digital Subscribers

NYTimes.com has reached a major milestone in digital audience development – but they’re not stopping anytime soon

Digital audience development is the endgame for magazine publishing companies making the transition from traditional channels to a multiplatform strategy that will put them in a position to compete in the coming decades. But getting to the endgame is a work in progress: Digital magazines are continually experimenting with new channels, refining best practices, and measuring social media efforts in the digital media evolution. It’s never easy.

Unless you’re The New York Times, of course.

The Times recently announced that it has reached 1 million digital subscribers, while at the same time releasing a plan for doubling digital revenue. Let’s go straight to the source to see how they’re doing it.

The NYT Reaches 1 Million Digital-Only Subscribers …

You read that right – 1 million digital subscribers. That’s no mean feat in this day and age, and if anyone was going to reach it ahead of the field, it was going to be the Times, right? But how did they do it?

According to an announcement from Executive Editor Dean Baquet last week, the answer is good old-fashioned quality content – investing in the staff to crank it out and then effectively executing on the right platforms to match it up with readers ready to hand over their money for a top-shelf product regardless of the device or format.

In fact, Baquet says, the Times has an additional 1.1 million print-and-digital subscribers, which brings the Old Gray Lady’s total number to the highest in her 164-year history.

Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? How much would you pay for that information? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE instead, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.

But They’re Not Done Yet: New Memo Outlines Strategy on Digital Audience Development …

Just over a year since the Times’ leaked Innovation Report, another in-house document has made its way into the news, but this one was released by the publisher itself. And why not? The 12-page memo outlines a strategy to double digital revenue by 2020, to the tune of $800 million.

Subscriptions and engagement will be the focus of the effort, according to the Times. Currently, 12% of its audience generates 90% of its digital revenue.

“Many of our competitors focus primarily on attracting as many uniques as they can with a view to building an advertising-only business … We see our business as a subscription service first, which requires us to offer journalism and products worth paying for,” the memo says.

“To double our digital revenue, we need to more than double the number of these most loyal readers. We will need to develop them increasingly from younger demographics and international audiences.”

“Together, these efforts aim to reimagine our features sections for the mobile era with the same vigor and creativity that we put into launching them in the 1970s. … Of course, we will have to keep our costs in mind in the years to come. but our message today is not about cutting, it’s about growth.”

Which Includes New Product Times Insider

One product that will aid in the Times’ renewed digital audience development campaign will be Times Insider, which is an add-on giving subscribers exclusive access to articles, newsletters, videos, podcasts, events, ebooks, and more.

Aiming for Times-like numbers might be a bit ambitious, but then again, maybe not, if you download our free Audience Development Strategy Handbook today!

To read more about digital audience development in the news, visit NYTimes.com.

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