As the NYTimes.com prepares to unveil the full details for its metered paywall — in the words of CEO Janet Robinson, all will be revealed “sometime soon,” but not during its Q4 earnings call — analysts had some questions about the value of its participation in subscription-based news aggregator Ongo, which launched last week.
Ongo received a $4 million investment from the NYTCo (NYSE: NYT) — and an additional $4 million each from its other main backers, Gannett (NYSE: GCI) and The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) back in September — as way for the news organizations to experiment with varieties of paywalls and, hopefully, gain some incremental revenue and perhaps some new readers.
The San Francisco-based company charges a base subscription of $6.99 for access to select content from its three investors’ newspapers. Readers also get news from the Financial Times, AP, McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) and others.
So with Ongo already charging for access to NYT news stories, what’s the value of having that and the coming NYTimes.com metered paywall, one analyst asked Martin Nisenholtz, the NYTCo’s SVP, digital operations.
For one thing, Nisenholtz noted that Ongo only has access to 20 NYT stories a day. “Obviously, if you’re a Times loyalist, a regular Times user, you would come straight to the NYTimes.com and once the metered paywall is in place, pay us for use of the Times on an unlimited basis,” he said. “The positioning for Ongo is the ‘best of the best.’ It’s just started, so the number of brands is somewhat limited, but you can already choose content from us, as well as Gannett, The Post, the AP, FT and others. It’s a Hulu of news in some ways. Other packages of content will likely be upsold as well.”
In other digital activity during the quarter, Robinson noted at the beginning of the call that the NYT’s iPhone news app has been downloaded 6 million times since ’08 debut, with more than 2.5 million last year. When the NYTimes.com’s paywall comes down, the amount of content on that device and the iPad app will be limited to those who don’t agree to the fee.