NYTimes.com will likely boost advertising revenue if it offers more free content
The New York Times may soon stop charging readers to access premium content, according to a Tuesday New York Post article. If adopted, the strategy is sure to attract more website visitors and make NYTimes.com even more advertisement-based.
NYTimes.com currently offers all the day’s latest breaking news for free, while holding back it’s Op-Ed columns, news columnists, archives and several other features for paid subscribers.
The Post’s article is vague to the point of rumor. It does not mention what will happen, or when it will happen, or who said anything was happening. It states that a “source briefed on the matter” said “Times executives…made the decision to end the subscription-only TimesSelect Service but have yet to make an official announcement.”
If it does adopt this strategy, NYTimes.com will likely attract more readers, increase page views and be able to charge advertisers more money—essentially becoming advertisement based.
Giving away free content to attract website visitors is one of the Mequoda Groups’ favorite strategies because it’s almost guaranteed to work (as long as the content is valuable).
Look at the graph below, for example: (numbers provided by Compete)
Unique Visitors in June
USAToday.com’s traffic dominates the other top online newspapers in the country because all of its content is free. Users love frequently updated, free content.
USAToday is also the most circulated newspaper in the country, but that is beside the point. Print circulation matters, but not as much as a good online publishing strategy.
If print circulation were the only factor affecting website traffic, then WSJ.com would be getting more unique visitors than NYTimes.com—and it’s clearly not.
NYTimes.com offers more free content than WSJ.com, that’s why its website gets more traffic despite having a lower print circulation.
Judging from the success of USAToday’s online strategy, coupled with the possibility that WSJ.com will offer more free content in the near future, it is not surprising that the NYTimes is questioning its blended revenue strategy.
Its revenue blend right now is advertisement and subscription based—and holding back content for subscribers really hurts ad revenue.
If content is behind a firewall then it is not likely to spidered by search engines. Even if only some of the content is firewalled, as with NYTimes.com’s current strategy, then SEO and website traffic are inhibited.
Maintaining a Membership Website is not easy, either. They are dependent on subscriptions and user-access fees, and that requires the site to be an extensive archive that users want to frequently access.
The problem for online newspapers is that newshounds only want to read today’s news, not last year’s news, so an archive has little value to their target audience.
If NYTimes.com does decide to give away all of its content it will be a great for its SEO. Current topics written by their award winning columnists will be found more often by searchers, and their website will benefit from over 150 years of archives being indexed by Google.
All of that extra traffic would boost ad revenue at the Grey Lady and she could survive the digital transition.