Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape


Wed - 01.04.2015

Paywall advice from the New York Times

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Paywall advice from the New York Times

During a session called “Winners Shaping the Future,” Michael Golden, Vice Chairman of the NYT Company, describes these signs of success:

  • Retention rates for print subscribers have improved.
  • The New York Times Media Group has had revenue growth for 5 quarters since starting the digital subscription plan.
  • It’s been a huge emotional lift for employees.
  • Only modest reductions in unique visitors and pageviews for nytimes.com have emerged.

"It has been a huge success," said Golden. “This case is unique to The Times. However, there are lessons other media companies can derive from our experience.”

His advice:  

  1. Be clear with your goals. “Our goal was absolutely clear: to offer a meaningful digital subscription plan that allowed us the full benefit of tablets,  smartphones and the web.  Our content is worth it.”
  2. Align the whole organization behind the effort. “Such a plan touches every part of the organization, IT, finance, marketing, editorial, advertising, production. Your customers expect a wonderful experience and you have to unite to deliver it.  The standard is set by Apple, Amazon, Google. We have to measure up.”
  3. Your readers know best. “Your customers will tell you what they want.  Are you listening carefully?” The Times did extensive research on what readers wanted and expected. It also did extensive usability testing on features and screens, Golden said. Price testing and offer bundles were also heavily researched.
  4. Promote aggressively. “Act like an e-tailer.”
  5. Advertising still works. The Times had an increase in advertising the year it introduced the digital subscription plan. Careful analysis of the gateway and the ways around it like search and social media resulted in a modest loss of uniques and pageviews. “The lost advertising was largely at remant rates and paled in comparison to the subscription revenue,” Golden said.

Golden says the plan's success has allowed NYT to to move ahead aggressively, leveraging its direct relationship with readers.

You may download Mr Golden's presenation from slideshare.


Dean Roper's picture

Dean Roper


2012-09-03 16:58


Tue, 2012-09-04 19:34 — Greg Golebiewski @znakit (not verified)

Dean, how modest is the "modest reductions in unique visitors and pageviews"?

According to comScore (which unfortunately changed its stats methodology last year), the NYT web properties lost about 15 million visits or 16.7% of its monthly traffic in the past year, or since the methodology change. Prior to that, the NYT was also losing traffic. Between March 2011 (paywall erection) and July 2011, the sites lost another 9.7% of its monthly visits.

Can you comment on that, please

Thank you?

Mon, 2012-09-10 11:47 — Dean Roper

Dear Greg,

First of all, sorry for the delay...

No specific figures were given during the presentation but I have asked Mr. Golden if he would like to comment on your reply.

I realise there is some debate in the industry about whether or not this model is sustainable. Personally, in the case of the Times, considering its strong brand, I think it is, particularly as a part of the company's overall growth strategy.

I won't go into all the different paid models, what works best where/when, but what we definitely learned in Kiev is that you better know what types of content can sell, it better be unique and high quality, you better make it easy to purchase (procedurally), and you cannot underestimate the technology and research work that needs to be done before you launch.

Best, Dean

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