The New York Times’
plan to start charging a subscription fee for some of its email newsletters is a good strategy to diversify its revenue. The publisher also can use the newsletters to
cross-sell other editorial products, such as all-access subscriptions to its website.
When the media company this month reported results for its June quarter, it revealed that digital subscriptions
to its Games and NYT Cooking sections had surged almost 41% from a year earlier to
1.8 million. The growth rate was twice as much as for news subscriptions.
The lesson here is to find audience segments that are willing to pay for specialized content. The
NYT publishes about 50 newsletters that cover everything from general-interest news to more specialized topics, such as business, politics, sports, science and the arts.
Eleven of its newsletters
are being converted to subscriber-only
offerings, including On Politics, Well, On Tech With Shira Ovide
. The paid newsletters also will include offerings from noted writers, such as tech columnist Kara
Swisher, linguist John McWhorter and sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom.
By offering these writers a platform for promoting their works, the NYT can more effectively
compete against newsletter startups like Substack or social media companies that are offering tools to self-publish and make money from subscriptions.
The company says that
about 15 million people a week read one of its newsletters. It’s not clear how much that audience overlaps with its approximately 8 million subscriptions. The company’s goal is to reach 10
million paid subscriptions in the next few years.
However, there is an opportunity to convert those readers either to a paid subscription to a single newsletter, or perhaps to
bundle them in a variety of ways. Some readers may eventually decide that paying extra for an all-access subscription provides the best value. Either way, the NYT can reach niche or
general-interest audiences that are willing to pay for content.