The Brash Times: Paper Combines Risk And Readiness To Build Digital Marketing

Krystal Plomatos, executive director of growth marketing for The New York Times, is used to sudden changes in the news cycle, including those involving her own company. Case in point: As the holidays were approaching two years ago, she and her team were working on the marketing plan for the Times Spelling Bee, “an incredible force,” Plomatos says. After the holidays, they abruptly learned that the Times had acquired Wordle, the web-based word game. They now had a new assignment. 

But they rolled with it. And this March 15, they celebrated the thousandth Wordle. The Times worked with brand partners to place solved words. Special prizes were offered. And the Empire State Building was lit in green and yellow. 

This is hardly the profile of what used to be called the Old Gray Lady. 



Plomatos is responsible for marketing subscription and helping nascent New York Times brands hit scale, including News, Cooking, Games, Audio and Wirecutter. On her watch, the Times has put Games on 600 Delta flights. And in one zany promotion, readers texted emojis to get free summer recipes. 

Not that the Times is deviating from its central mission of providing the news. “News is the sun of our solar system,” Plomatos says.  

Plomatos, who has served at Lyft, Sylvain, Anomaly, Mother and, started at the Times as a consultant in 2020, working on what was then a top secret project: New York Times audio. Her remit expanded into a full-time role on newsletters and other products, and last year she received her current title. 

As such, she is part of a success story that could serve as an object lesson for struggling newspapers throughout the country.  

Ten years ago, Plomatos notes, the Times published an internal innovation report that said it needed to lean into the digital future. 

And so it did—the numbers show it. The Times added roughly 300,000 net digital- only subscribers in the third quarter of 2023, mostly bundle and multi-product subscribers.  

The average revenue for digital-one users grew by 3.5% YoY to $9.24. This was mostly due to subscribers graduating from promotional to higher prices, along with increases for tenured non-bundled subscribers.  

But Plomatos admits that “even the big wins are difficult and challenging.” On her job, she has to reach out to people up and down the funnel: “generalists, specialists, performance marketers, brand marketers and product marketers,” she says. She has to convince naysayers. Then she has to get everyone to work together.  

This is hardly an idle exercise.  

“We all face and feel the pressures of decline of media industry,” she notes. “Our publisher, A.G. Sulzberger says that as hard as it is, we all need to think bigger.” 

But what does that take? 

For one thing, brands have to embrace the twin concepts of risk and readiness “To have a high risk profile, you have to have a readiness profile,” Plomatos says. 

That requires talking to your cross-functional partners, including engineers and designers, considering the counter metrics and embracing the human and philosophical elements.  

“How many humans are you going to put on this crazy new venture?” Plomatos asks. “Whom are you talking to? You’re stuck choosing between Monday being dedicated to this or some other exercise. What’s the worst thing that can happen? And what do we do in response to that?” 

Plomatos continues, “What are you willing to explore and how many resources will you to commit upfront? What’s your exit strategy, How long before you’re ready to call it a wrap?” 

Do all that, then you may be ready to execute.  

Plomatos won’t reveal dollar numbers or what she is working on next. But you can expect more of everything.  

Is she hiring? Yes. “I’m in the process of finalizing a job description for a director of growth of marketing,” she says. 

Send your resume to Plomatos. 


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