- The New York Times will test higher prices for digital subscriptions as it aims for a goal of 10 million subscribers by 2025.
- The Times has been heavily discounting with a $1-per-week offer, but believes people will pay richly for the product.
- The plans come as publishers all over are turning to paywalls and membership programs, though.
The New York Times is planning to test higher prices for digital subscriptions as it shoots for a new goal of passing 10 million subscribers by 2025.
The Times — considered one of the most successful paywalled publications — set the new goal while releasing its fourth-quarter and full 2018 earnings. It ended the year with 3.4 million digital subscriptions and 4.3 million total subscriptions. The Times added 265,000 subscriptions in the fourth quarter, which it said was the biggest increase since the months after the 2016 presidential election, when many news outlets saw a "Trump bump."
The subscription growth has come at a cost, though. The Times has aggressively been promoting a $1-per-week offer for digital access, versus the regular rate of $3.75 per week.
Executives made clear that their goal is to get people paying higher prices and adding services as part of more expensive packages.
“We’re trying to exploit a demand curve as effectively as we can, using low, introductory prices and being in a relationship with people where we can increase the price and get better at bundling in additional services to move people to richer packages at higher price points,” president and CEO Mark Thompson said during the company’s earnings call to discuss the financial results.
To that end, the Times will start testing higher prices for digital subscriptions early this year, said Meredith Levien, EVP and chief operating officer, adding that the Times hasn’t raised its digital subscription price in seven and a half years.
“We know from our experience with print that there are a number of people who are willing to pay a lot for The New York Times, and we also know from our experience with print that we can continue to add value to the product and experience to make it worth more to people,” she said.
(In fact, some people outside the New York metro area pay more than $1,000 a year for print plus digital access.)
Competition for readers’ dollars is getting stiffer
The plans come as publishers everywhere are turning to paywalls and membership programs, which means more competition for readers’ limited dollars, though. Just last month, Condé Nast said it would have all its publications behind paywalls by the end of the year.
The Times isn’t just counting on its journalism to get to its 10 million subscription goal. It’s also aggressively moving into new products that surround the core news report.
About three-fourths of new subscriptions came from people subscribing to the news product, the rest coming from crossword puzzles and the Times’ Cooking subscription product. The Times sees more growth coming in those products and others: It’s planning to test more puzzles and a parenting product in the next few months, while planning other products that tie in with people’s daily habits.
Executives acknowledged there’s more work to be done to make its product more habit-forming. To that end, it’s planning to increase spending on Times journalism, improving the user experience of the news product, efforts it expects to keep people engaged and renewing.
“The biggest opportunity in the next few years is to make the product more habit-forming and to retain people,” Levien said. “We have a fair amount of work do to do get that engine working far far better to get an audience already coming to us to engage more deeply.”
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Source: Business Insider