Commentary

NYT Plans New Focus On Winning Subscribers: 'On Their Phones'

Looks like legacy news media is going after mobile in a bigger way.

After celebrating 1 million digital subscribers this week, the New York Times Company released an 11-page strategy memo outlining its plan to double digital revenue to $800 million by 2020 and leverage mobile in a much bigger way.

“The next million [subscribers] must be fought for and won over with The Times on their phones,” states the memo. The New York Times’ recent launch of a “mobile moments” native advertising effort also indicates a corporate mindset focused on mobile.

The Times reported print circulation and revenue losses in both Q1 and Q2 this year. The $800 million digital-only revenue goal will far exceed the point at which digital revenue exceeds 2015 declining print revenues, which stand at a little less than $600 million as of Q2.

And 90% of the Times' digital subscription revenue comes from 12% of its readers, according to the memo. Attracting new readers is one focus, but the company also want to bring other readers to that same level of engagement and become subscribers.

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“A strong and united team is collaborating better than ever across news, business and technology and showing why the dominant voice of the print era will be the dominant voice in the mobile era as well,” states the memo.

Acknowledging updates to the Times' mobile user experience, the memo also noted that the vast majority of those readers are under 40 years old. It will be interesting to see what kind of tone shift the paper finds as it focuses more on millennials.

While social media will play a role in the new strategy, the memo states that “our clear focus remains on driving interested readers back to our platforms where we can expose them to the full breadth of our work and help them build a lifetime relationship with The New York Times.”

The memo reflects an industry migration to a mobile-first cross-channel content production and consumption environment. But in the end, the content of news publications is always targeted to its audience. As a near-global publication, the New York Times has to make sure it reflects the mindset of its readers while turning a profit.

“The most pressing challenge is not to prove that our journalism matters,” states the memo. “It's to demonstrate that our business can continue to support this mission."

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