New York Times scores online

25 April 2011

NEW YORK: The New York Times, the newspaper, has attracted 100,000 online subscribers less than a month after introducing a "metered" payment system to view its content.

The company unveiled its paid-for platform in Canada during the middle of March, and then rolled it out globally.

Users can now read 20 free articles a month, and are asked to subscribe upon hitting this benchmark.

"Approximately three weeks after the global launch, we have surpassed 100,000 paid digital subscribers," Janet Robinson, chief executive of the New York Times Company, said on a conference call.

"Initial volume has meaningfully exceeded our expectations."

"In addition, we have seen an increase in new home delivery orders from seven-day to weekend-only since the launch, as print subscribers of all frequencies received digital access at no additional cost."

The overall figure was supplemented by 200,000 of the most loyal visitors to, who were offered free, "sponsored" access via a tie-up with Lincoln, Ford's auto marque.

Lincoln is not simply funding the activity of this group, but will instead boost its internet advertising expenditure with the New York Times.

Given the nascent stage of the online charging programme, Robinson was reticent to forecast how trends may develop going forward.

"So soon after the launch, we do not yet have visibility into conversion and retention rates for these paying customers after the initial promotional period, although early indicators are encouraging," she said.

More broadly, the organisation is adapting its approach to advertising, particularly concerning unsold "remnant" inventory.

"In our new online model, the revenue stream we are adding direct from consumers in the form of subscriptions is balanced against the loss of some inventory that would have been sold on the remnant market," Robinson said.

"But we fully expect to continue to meet all of the demands for premium inventory on the site."

An estimated $13m in costs are set to be accrued in relation to the paywall scheme, especially as a result of promotional efforts.

While erecting such a barrier constitutes a more restrictive strategy than was previously the case, the New York Times still wants to engage consumers from across the internet.

"We are intent on remaining part of the open web, so we are welcoming visits from third parties, such as search engines, social networks and blogs," said Robinson.

Regarding mobile, the charging structure has also been integrated with the New York Times' iPhone app, downloaded 6.5m times since 2008, and its iPad equivalent, where this total has reached 1.8m downloads in a year.

Indeed, Robinson reported the latter tool has proved highly appealing to marketers seeking to target an attractive user base.

"Advertisers such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Ralph Lauren have leveraged our ability to create rich advertising experiences that build on unique capabilities of the device," she said.

"As a result, we have commitments from a wide range of advertisers well into 2011."

Data sourced from Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff