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Summary:

News Corp.’s The Times and NYTCo’s The New York Times each introduced online charges in summer 2010 and March 2011 respectively. So how are…

Big Ben and Statue of Liberty

News Corp.’s The Times and NYTCo’s The New York Times each introduced online charges in summer 2010 and March 2011 respectively. So how are they each faring with subscriber acquisition? Here’s our analysis…

NYTimes.com (NYSE: NYT) has managed to sign up more customers in less time than its UK namesake, and growth is steep.

How come?

NYTimes.com’s paid content strategy is a softer, more porous on-ramp than The Times‘, operating a free story allowance before subscription is required. This may be reflected in the graph above.

But likely what the comparison really shows is the differing scales of the news publishers’ different addressable markets. The U.S. is larger than the UK, New York larger than London, and 12 percent of NYTimes.com’s subscriptions are coming from outside the States, while NYTCo also operates the adjacent International Herald Tribune. The Times remains a firmly British publication.

So a straight-up comparison isn’t necessarily possible. But interesting nonetheless. The more subscribers these publishers have, the greater their ability might be to staff their newsrooms.

  1. Then you have to consider an incredible amount of money and effort by the NYT to market its plan. The result: go on twitter, for example, and search for paywall; there a thousands of tweets about the NYT’s meter or articles behind the paywall, and only a handful of references to the Times

    Not to mention that the press coverage of Times’ paywall was from the begging very negative.

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  2. Try scaling those numbers according to the relative Alexa/ComScore/whatever stats, that will give you a more accurate picture of their comparative success.

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  3. Stephen Thompson Monday, October 24, 2011

    It would be interesting to understand more about the profiles / demographics of these seemingly small but significant subscriber bases. I suspect these are pretty affluent and potentially influential people making then attractive to customers to have on board in the long run. 

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  4. These numbers look simple, hence they lack a few explanations.
    Are first week (1 pound at The Times) or first 4 week (99 cent at New York Times) subscribers counted if they do not extend beyond the price hike (2 pound a week for The Times, 15/20/35 dollars for the NYT)?
    If yes, we should ask about the number of long-term subscribers and about the unique identification of a short-term subscriber (email, name, address, means of payment). Identification is not so easy in the online world as with good old paper delivery.
    Ceterum censeo: Your kids do not subscribe to newspapers. At most, they will pay a few cents for individual articles.

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    1. Stephen Thompson Monday, October 24, 2011

      Good question on whether those on initial promotions are counted and unique identification. I’m pretty sure in their back-end they will have applied unique identifiers for each type of subscription offered to each individual (least I really hope so!). 
      Also from looking at the graph its also not possible to tell if these are total cumulative acquisitions or live subscribers at each point in time (@robertandrews:disqus  are you able to clarify?)

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  5. I haven’t gone back to the publishers specifically on your questions, but I believe each refers to actual active subscribers, at the time of the disclosure, at whatever price point above zero.
    I don’t think it’s at all an invalid tactic to sign people up on a pricepoint like £0.99 for an initial period, since those entry pricepoints soon kick in to a proper full-price subscription. Same goes for the subscriptions The Times added through a Groupon discount (http://cnt.to/o7r), since those, too, will auto-renew at full price.
    I’m sure the publishers do identify the various tiers in-house, but I think it’s also directionally valid to refer only to one “subscribers” tier.

    Thanks for your discussion.

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  6. The average age and various other statistics around these numbers would be very interesting. 

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  7. Two points; the NYT is much more a global brand than The Times. And in its local market, The Times (UK) runs up hard against the BBC. In the US the public broadcaster does not provide the equivalent competitive tension.

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