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TimesSelect Adds 21,000 Free Academic Subs In First Week; Times Reader Premium Plans Criticized

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Updated to include Sunday numbers. About 7,000 .edu subscribers were paying for half-price TimesSelect academic subscriptions when the NYT switched to a free plan March 13; since then, some 21,000 have signed up for the service, according to numbers provided by the company at our request. The half-price academic subscription, introduced a few months after launch, clearly never took off. Free is usually more popular, though, and this is no exception but it’s still the proverbial drop in the bucket given the vast size of the potential pool.
TimesSelect is also included with home-delivery subscriptions at no extra charge; that number is increasing steadily but slowly. The latest count is included in the NYTCO’s Februaryearnings report released Tuesday: TimesSelect has 639,000 subscribers, with about 66 percent receiving it though home delivery subscriptions and 34 percent online only. The service had 627,000 subscribers in January, up from over 609,000 at the end of December.
For perspective, the NYT had just over 705,000 daily home delivery subscribers at last report so close to 422,000 TimesSelect subscribers — roughly 60 percent — out of that pool isn’t a shabby take rate for a still relatively new service. [Note: A very observant reaber — that’s all we have — caught that I left out the word daily. I’m also adding the Sunday numbers.] The home delivery — which is all that matters here since that’s who can get it free — for Sunday has 1.16 million; using the larger number means
the take rate is about 36-37 percent. I agree that larger pool should be considered; I think the more likely subscribers come from 7-day subs but I could be mistaken. (While I’m in the neighborhood again, it may be worth pointing out that the number of combined TimesSelect subs is close to the most recent daily number; probably meaningless but interesting.)
As for the online numbers, for all of those who contend that people won’t pay for news, more than 217,000 were doing just that as of the end of February with a potential subscription revenue of about $10.8 million.
TimesReader: That doesn’t mean the more expensive Times Reader, which becomes a pay edition at the end of the month, will come close to these numbers any time soon. The edition will be included with home delivery so the Times gets to say it has added value again for those lucrative subcribers (including my household) even as it runs some risk of losing print subs to what would be a cheaper and pretty elegant option. Critics argue that paying for the Times Reader doesn’t make sense since the content in it (with the exception of what is behind the TimesSelect paywall) can be read for free online.
One example: NYU student Matt Buchanan urges the company to make the Times Reader free for students: “A week from today, the best way to read The New York Times will no longer also be a free way to read the Times. Starting March 27, The New York Times Reader will run $15 a month or $165 a year. While $15 a month is a bargain compared to home delivery at $40 a month, when the same content is available for free on its website, the inclination to dole out cash drops precipitously … The opening of TimesSelect to anyone with a .edu e-mail address is itself a tacit admission of the program’s failure to spur people to pay for content.”
I don’t think he realizes how many people already are paying for it; he also thinks the majority of Times subs already have .edu addresses and will just switch to reading the paper free. But he does have an interesting suggestion about colleges and universities paying a small licensing fee to distribute Times Reader. One plus for a paper trying to woo the younger set: at least he likes the TR produced in collaboration with Microsoft.
Related:
TimesSelect To Be Free For College Students, Faculty; NYT Teams Up With MySpace For Kristof Contest
NYT Will Charge For Times Reader: $165 A Year; Free To Home Subs

One Response to “TimesSelect Adds 21,000 Free Academic Subs In First Week; Times Reader Premium Plans Criticized”

  1. actually, the Times's circulation is closer to 1.1 million when you include the Sunday editon and the weekend delivery people are included in the free Time Selection pool. So it's more like a third of paying home delivery subs, not half, are getting TS for free.