Mentioned within a press release earlier this week, the New York Times announced the company’s intention to launch a new, lower-priced digital subscription plan that will provide access to the most important stories on the site. Details on pricing are non-existent at this point, but the monthly subscription plan will be cheaper than the $15 unlimited digital access plan required to read the New York Times beyond the allotment of ten articles allowed to public users each month. Market research indicated that there was strong demand behind reducing the cost of digital access, hence the announcement about the new tier in pricing structure.
Over the past two years, the online paywall system has been a success for the New York Times. It’s been so popular that many other newspapers have adopted similar paywalls in order to generate more revenue from the digital side of the news business. According to the most recent data on the subscriber base, the New York Times has attracted approximately 640,000 digital only subscriptions that pay a minimum of $15 a month for service. That generates a minimum of $115 million per year for the newspaper, likely significantly more since there are multiple price tiers based of mobile device access levels. In addition, about 900,000 print subscribers have linked their accounts to the newspaper’s site in order to remove the paywall for digital access.
Speaking at the Digital Media Europe conference a couple weeks ago, NYTimes.com vice president Paul Smurl stated “We should have done it sooner. We were at a point, at least with the Web product, where we had reached a steady state. We had grown to well over 30 million in the users in the US, well over 40 million globally, and it was time to start and monetize those. Now we have well over 1.7 million digital paid relationships.”
However, the New York Times announced a modification of the company’s strategy regarding Web video earlier this week. Videos on the New York Times can now be accessed for free without the need for a digital or print subscription to the newspaper. In addition, pageviews will not count against the ten article limit allowed to free users. Conceptually, this will raise the total number of viewers and ultimately increase advertisement revenue generated from current sponsors like Microsoft and Acura.
Regarding price on the new subscription plan, Smurl indicated that the plan would be $10 or under, possibly similar to the $7.99 Netflix price point for access to Netflix Instant. New York Times management is also planning to launch higher price tiers that will allow for access to exclusive content. In addition, the company will roll out shared access plans for families as well as the ability to purchase gift subscriptions for friends and family.
Beyond those additions, the New York Times is also looking into the development of games for users as well as an expansion into more e-commerce solutions in order to generate additional revenue from free users and subscribers. On the technical side, the New York Times recently patched a hole in the company’s paywall system that allowed users to read articles for free by simply modifying the URL of the article.