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'Golden' time at New York Times

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'Golden' time at New York Times

Today, Golden, a fourth-generation Ochs-Sulzberger family member and cousin of Chairman and CEO Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., is Vice Chairman of The New York Times Company. He focuses on the long-term strategic direction of the overall company and is in charge of several corporate departments including Human Resources and Research and Development. He also has operational responsibility for The New England Media Group which includes the Boston Globe, its websites, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette and its website.

Golden will speak at the World Newspaper Congress in Kiev in a session called “Winners Shaping the Future.” We interviewed him via email in late March, a few weeks before the company's first quarter results were released on 19 April. Those figures show that NYT’s total circulation revenues were up 13 percent in the first quarter, thanks largely to the success of the company’s (much talked-about) digital subscriptions.

The company has approximately 454,000 paid subscribers to its various digital subscription packages, e-readers and replica editions of NYT and the International Herald Tribune. The company also announced that it is reducing the number of free articles in its metered paywall from 20 to 10. So, once again, many in the industry will be watching this development, something Golden says the company welcomes.


WAN-IFRA: How does it feel today, as I suppose is often the case, to know that all eyes are on The New York Times’ every move, particularly with the digital subscription model?

GOLDEN: The New York Times is seen as a leader in the industry, and we are both proud and humbled by the attention directed at the company. Our primary effort is to ensure that we continue to play a key role in the life of our readers and a prominent role in the marketing efforts of our advertisers. Our business is in the midst of a historic transition and we are very focused on the opportunities the digital world presents us. We try to be as open as possible to our colleagues in the journalism industry to share our learning and how we view our challenges.

WAN-IFRA: It only seems like a little more than a year ago that there were whispers that NYT might not even be around much longer… you must have heard this. What were your thoughts then?

GOLDEN: Those whispers were great exaggerations made by bloggers who were not well versed in the company’s financials. While the world financial crisis came at a very difficult time for the newspaper and media industry, The New York Times Company was never in danger of not existing. However, it did focus our management on the importance of building on our strengths and making sure we had the resources to survive and even thrive through the recession that followed. I never doubted The New York Times Company would manage through that period. As the great American author Mark Twain said, “The reports of my death was an exaggeration.”

WAN-IFRA: And here we are a year, more or less, after the launch of your digital subscription model and the latest figures show that NYT has 454,000 subscriptions, exceeding the reported goal NYT set of 300,000 in the first year… what is the benchmark for calling this a success?

GOLDEN: We are very pleased with the result of our digital subscription plan. The number of subscribers puts us among the largest news subscription plans in the world. As we released in our latest financial reports, circulation revenue at The New York Times Media Group was up 7.9% and we have seen improvement in our print subscription and renewal rates since the launch of the plan a year ago. [Editor’s note: The first quarter results were released after this interview showing a larger increase at 13%]. Sunday circulation has improved the most.

WAN-IFRA: What is a realistic goal for the number of digital subscriptions in the foreseeable future… say by the end of 2013?

GOLDEN: We are not releasing any estimates of future subscription levels.

WAN-IFRA: How is the advertising following?

GOLDEN: The implementation of the pay model has had no measurable effect on premium advertising sell-through at

WAN-IFRA: With digital advertising revenues increasing, partially offsetting losses in print ad revenues, what opportunities do you see for NYT to level this difference in the near future?

GOLDEN: We are not making predictions on advertising revenue or a point when digital ad revenue gains exceed print advertising losses.

WAN-IFRA: Many point to the unique brands of The Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and NYT as being able to have considerable success with digital subscriptions… as hundreds of other newspapers in the States and around the world launch similar models, what do you think is key to their success?

GOLDEN: The evidence is clear that providing the highest quality journalism while maintaining a national and global reach is a great benefit in digital subscription plans. The larger the pool of potential subscribers is, the greater the chance of success. Perhaps the greatest key to success is the degree to which the publications content is unique and highly valued. While this might seem obvious, it is important to be clear about the value of the news and information to its audience. The New York Times has a history of measuring our readers’ reactions to our content and determining how they value it.

WAN-IFRA: NYT has clearly stated its mission to continue transforming to a digitally focused, multiplatform media company... How would you define the printed product’s role in that strategy going forward?

GOLDEN: The role of print is very important. Our print editions are very popular with readers and advertisers. The median age of a print reader of The New York Times shown in survey data is 50 years old, so the audience will be with print for a considerable number of years.

WAN-IFRA: What is the Times doing to market its content for even greater expansion, particularly globally?

GOLDEN: The New York Times Media Group includes both The Times and the International Herald Tribune (IHT). The IHT has been an international paper for over 100 years and is now the international edition of The New York Times. The ubiquity of the web has given a global audience access to The New York Times on a daily, even hourly, basis. That has provided us the opportunity to develop both great properties on a global scale since we are freed from the constraints of print and delivery in the short window of 8 to 12 hours that characterizes print journalism. We are aggressively developing both the print and digital editions of The Times and the IHT.

WAN-IFRA: What can you tell us about the search for a new CEO?

GOLDEN: We are actively pursuing the search.


Dean Roper's picture

Dean Roper


2012-05-10 10:13

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