Image from here.
The New York Times today released the report of it’s 2020 group that studied how the organisation needs to move forward in a turbulent digital era. As the previous reports from the NYT, this too was very illuminating (especially if you also work in the business).
A summary. But, if you have the time do read the whole thing. I found the whole thing fascinating, especially the success of the subscription model , probably because a) i work in the space, and b) more importantly, it is my firm view, that if you are giving away content at next to nothing, it cannot be very good content. If you have to create a long term sustainable business model, it cannot be purely advertising driven. It has to be by paying customers, who like the content enough to pay for it, again and again.
NYT on how it managed to get $500 million of digital revenues, which is “far more than the digital revenues reported by many other leading publications (including BuzzFeed, The Guardian and The Washington Post) — combined”
We are, in the simplest terms, a subscription-first business. Our focus on subscribers sets us apart in crucial ways from many other media organizations. We are not trying to maximize clicks and sell low-margin advertising against them. We are not trying to win a pageviews arms race. We believe that the more sound business strategy for The Times is to provide journalism so strong that several million people around the world are willing to pay for it.
they talk about this later in the report too, when they say
A story that receives 100,000 or 200,000 pageviews and makes readers feel as if they’re getting reporting and insight that they can’t find anywhere else is more valuable to The Times than a fun piece that goes viral and yet woos few if any new subscribers.
And the subscription focus helps the NYT not just get a dedicated, paying audience, but also attracts advertising that wants to reach these customers.
Our focus on subscribers stems from a challenge confronting us: the weakness in the markets for print advertising and traditional forms of digital-display advertising. But by focusing on subscribers, The Times will also maintain a stronger advertising business than many other publications. Advertisers crave engagement: readers who linger on content and who return repeatedly. Thanks to the strength and innovation of our journalism — not just major investigative work and dispatches from around the world but also interactive graphics, virtual reality and Emmy-winning videos that redefine storytelling — The Times attracts an audience that advertisers want to reach.
Going forward, to engage more audiences this is what they are planning to do:
- Go more visual – use more pictures.
- Short, chunk-able, utilitarian content – such as the Daily Briefing – that will lead to more consumption/engagement. As they put it “They take advantage of the available technology and our curatorial judgment to explain the world to readers on a frequent, predictable rhythm that matches the patterns of readers’ lives.”
- Features to become more useful (read utilitarian) content. Become a guide.
- Make readers co-creators of content, that will be curated by the NYT’s journalistic expertise
- Train existing staff digital ready ..to understand how the consumer wants to consume content. This would also look at journalism more as a ‘ visual narrative’ exercise.
- Also, desk people may be holding their breath “The Times currently devotes too many resources to low-value editing — and, by extension, too many to editing overall. Our journalism and our readers would be better served if we instead placed an even higher priority on newsgathering in all of its forms.”
- And on being wedded to an organisation form meant for a different era & technology — ie dead (wood) technology ie. print – “The print version of The New York Times remains a daily marvel, beloved by a large number of loyal readers. It is a curated version of our best stories, photography, graphics and art. But the newsroom’s current organization creates dangers for the print newspaper — and is also holding back our ability to create the best digital report”
Read the full report here