Summary:

The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) is pulling out the stops to build a base during the first year of its digital subscriptions. The latest:…

NYT on iPad for Breakfast
photo: Corbis / David Brabyn

The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) is pulling out the stops to build a base during the first year of its digital subscriptions. The latest: supplementing a marketing deal with Ford’s Lincoln luxury car line for free access to NYTimes.com and smartphones by offering a $35 iPad add on to the roughly 100,000 comp subscriptions. (See the offer below.) That’s for the rest of 2011 — not every four weeks, which would be the usual rate for the all-access package.

The 80 percent discount prices the offer low enough to get at least some of the Lincoln users to sign on, which should give the NYT a better chance to capture them at a higher rate when the comp and the add-on subscription expire at the end of 2011. It’s always possible the NYT will try a jump to full price then but based on how other subscriptions offers work, I’d expect something a little sweeter to encourage conversion. That could include a push for print-plus-digital subscriptions.

The Lincoln comps, who accepted an offer made to a pre-paywall list of frequent readers, aren’t included in the digital subscription numbers being provided by NYT execs.

During the April earnings call, the company said it has more than 100,000 paid digital-only subscribers. We don’t know how many came from the initial $.99 four-week promo — or how many of those stayed. At the JP Morgan conference May 18, CEO Janet Robinson also said 728,000 print subscribers have linked to digital access as part of their subscriptions (AP via ABC). The NYT doesn’t get any extra income from those subs but, writing as one of them, it enhances the value of the overall subscription and should help with retention.

That suggests that at least nearly 1 million users can cut through the paywall, which kicks in monthly after 20 free stories, online and on at least one device. Two elements that should help: enabling household accounts as well as the promised Kindle and Nook access.

A company spokesman told me today they don’t plan to issue any new results until the next earnings call on July 21.

Thanks, Scott Karp, for tweeting about this and forwarding the e-mail.

Note: I stress a lot over whether I’m using too much jargon or tossing around too many technical terms without explanation but it turns out I have a blind spot when it comes to cars. I made the mistake of writing about ‘Lincoln’ as though it was common enough for people to know I was referring to the Ford line and failed in the headline department. I’ve added the description to the lead, quote marks to the headline and a brief explanation of who got the initial offer to help clear it up.

Thanks to those who reached out in “copy editor” mode.

Comments have been disabled for this post