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The Internet Businesses

The New York Times Has Lessons For Others Making the Slow Transition To Digital 67

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-on-the-net dept.
mattydread23 writes "You may not think your business has much in common with the New York Times, but the newspaper is a perfect example of how to maintain investment in a large but declining legacy business while simultaneously investing in new areas that will drive future growth. Surprisingly, 10% of the paper's revenue now comes from digital subscriptions and other all-digital products (not including advertising)."
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The New York Times Has Lessons For Others Making the Slow Transition To Digital

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:34PM (#45519077)

    When the NYT charges so much for digital subscriptions (esp. tablet), it's not surprising 10% of their revenue is digital.

    • by toonces33 (841696)

      Yes, but it is still cheaper than home delivery.

      We are one of the digital subscribers. Usually in the morning I will pull the thing up on the tablet to see what is going on in the world..

    • by lgw (121541) on Monday November 25, 2013 @08:11PM (#45520809) Journal

      The NYT shouldn't be giving lessons to anyone - they were very slow to make an accommodation to digital, and they're still clearly on an "ink smeared on dead trees" business model, that happens to do some online stuff as a side venture.

      Just a couple of years ago the total value of the company was less than the value of it's real estate and other holdings: the actual business was valued negatively by the market (the same was true of Sun in their final year - Oracle basically got the non-real-estate part of Sun for free).

  • parsing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turkeydance (1266624) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:40PM (#45519187)
    "digital subscriptions and other"...so DS's are a single digit percentage.
  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:41PM (#45519195) Homepage

    Most papers are local. News about a small city or region. New York Times is not only national, it's international, if you ignore all the NY pretentiousness. The NYT can make it on the internet with this model, but most papers cannot. For any local paper, there just aren't enough subscribers to make it a viable business model. Even papers from larger cities like Chicago, LA, Houston, etc. are having issues.

    • by tgetzoya (827201) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:53PM (#45519319) Homepage
      The interesting thing is that many newspapers are owner by a larger newspaper. The Boston Globe is/was owned by the NYT, The LA Times is owned by the Chicago Tribune, etc. I think what's missing is a form of brand cohesion, as in naming all newspapers in a family one central name and having a dedicated website for all.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      So?
      I would take a digital subscription to my local paper today. Just send me the 3 color PDF they send to the printer. They don't want to take my money.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        They don't want to take my money.

        Of course they want to take your money. They just don't want to have you telling them how to deliver their product or to make a special system just for you.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          That is how reality works.
          You deliver a product and buy purchasing or not your customers tell you if they approve of it and how it is delivered.

      • 3 color PDF? Most operations are intelligent enough to use CMYK-- Black ink is cheap, and if you have any registration problems, your readers don't get headaches.

    • That seems like a valid lesson: if you're local only and not diversified, you probably WON'T make the transition.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The New York Times are truly blazing a trail on the information superhighway, leaving the rest of us in their dust. As a followup, perhaps experts at the MPAA and RIAA could share their wisdom on how to make the transition to digital media delivery...

  • Is that the quality of their reporting sucks. And they are biased.
  • Is it a surprise the NYT has managed to get even 10% of revenue from online sources? Or that it is so small a figure after years of trying?

    • by hawguy (1600213) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:13PM (#45519583)

      Is it a surprise the NYT has managed to get even 10% of revenue from online sources? Or that it is so small a figure after years of trying?

      I'm surprised that a company that apparently gets 90% of its revenue from non-digital sources is held up as an example of how to get money from digital sources.

      • by Bartles (1198017)

        No Kidding. Whatever strategy they're using, it isn't working.

        https://www.google.com/finance?chdnp=1&chdd=1&chds=1&chdv=1&chvs=maximized&chdeh=0&chfdeh=0&chdet=1385421580228&chddm=1102802&chls=IntervalBasedLine&q=NYSE:NYT&ntsp=0&ei=xtqTUrCNIJTksQedCA

      • I'm surprised that a company that apparently gets 90% of its revenue from non-digital sources is held up as an example of how to get money from digital sources.

        They literally don't know what they're doing. I used to read the occasional link from them and thus be exposed to their ads (I don't ad-block static ads). But recently they've started to require cookies to be set to view anything, so I get a login page (I do have an account, but have stopped using it). On the login page, they have a link to a priv

  • by guanxi (216397) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:02PM (#45519463)

    The NY Times overlooks the fundamentals of digital news: Their website is still a news- paper website, instead of a news website. It's print newspaper articles copied to the web, rather than news on the web platform.

    One problem is their inability to communicate using modern tools (i.e., anything but text). Just about any blogger can communicate by inserting images, audio, or video inline in a post, while the NY Times, with all its resources, seems to be text with an image or other multimedia occasionally stapled onto the top of the page or on a separate page.

    Sometimes text is the appropriate tool; sometimes an image, audio, or video is. For example, if someone says something important (or dubious or otherwise extraordinary), rather than transcribe it to text, show a video clip of them saying it (i.e., Here is Hilary Clinton's response: ) Then the readers can judge the body language, intonation, etc. for themselves. Another example is their arts reviews, where they describe key visual aspects of a painting, film, or performance -- but in text. Why not use clips or images, inline, as needed? This is the web in 2013, not paper in 1950.

    The clear answer seems to be the universal recipe for obsolescence: That's the way they've always done it. If the NY Times can't compete with anyone with a Wordpress blog, they are way behind the curve.

    • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:17PM (#45519623)

      There are a lot of news sites I avoid for PRECISELY that reason.

      Normally, I just want a quick read of the news. THEN, I'll consider the singing birds and the dancing flowers. That's true EVEN on a TV site. Nothing turns me off faster than a loud multimedia site that starts playing before the page is even done rendering whether I want it to or not and regardless of what those near me are doing.

      The Internet is not television. There are times and places where I don't want a lot of uncontrolled noise popping out of my speakers. And there is a time when lots of pictures and stuff are important and a time when just a quick synopsis will do (at least to begin with).

      • by danomac (1032160)

        The Internet is not television. There are times and places where I don't want a lot of uncontrolled noise popping out of my speakers.

        I agree, I primarily use noscript and flashblock. However, some sites are using HTML5 and seem to get around that somehow. Now I just leave my speakers off and only turn them on when I actually want to listen to something.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Now I just leave my speakers off and only turn them on when I actually want to listen to something.

          I usually am already listening to something, and the offending websites want to play without notice and at full volume.

          The NYT used to have (still has?) an excellent four page (double side) daily summary of the news. HP used to provide free access to that service as a way of increasing sales of ink-jet inks. They included software to automatically download and print any of several different sources, and I found the NYT summary to be just right. It had a daily crossword, too!

          I tried to get the same result

          • by danomac (1032160)

            I'd say it's high time Mozilla put individual mutes on tabs. They're all separated into individual processes now (I think?) and a visual play button could appear in the tab itself indicating the tab has sound. They can be set to mute new tabs as a default and only play sound after you've allowed it.

            I thought maybe a new plugin would do that, but no luck. Maybe plugins don't have access to that sort of thing?

            • by danomac (1032160)

              And I meant extensions, not plugins. I need more coffee.

              • by danomac (1032160)

                What do you know, there is an extension that mutes the browser [mozilla.org] easily. Unfortunately it looks like it is the whole browser it mutes, and not individual tabs. I haven't tried it, so I don't know if it works. Figured others may be interested.

        • My problem is that I use multiple windows, on multiple desktops, each with multiple tabs. And when I'm watching one thing, another page decides "This might be a good time to tell Jeremy about "Charmin Ultrasoft"

      • by guanxi (216397)

        The Internet is not television. There are times and places where I don't want a lot of uncontrolled noise popping out of my speakers.

        I agree, but there's no reason multimedia have to start playing unprompted.

      • The Internet is not television.

        So sorry for the inconvenience. We'll be fixing it soon. Please be patient.

      • by Solandri (704621)
        It's not just video that plays automatically. A little part of me cries when I see a CNN story is only available in video, or an NPR story is audio only. The problem with the video and audio formats is that you cannot fast-forward through them to see if might be interested in watching/listening to the whole thing.* With a text article or a transcript, I can skim it really quickly, then decide if it's interesting enough to warrant me taking the time to reading the whole thing.

        Yes video and audio clips
    • by dmitrygr (736758) <dmitrygr@gmail.com> on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:21PM (#45519673) Homepage
      Am I really the only one who permanently blacklists any website that has "video" news? Video requires 100% of my attention, and probably headphones, to avoid distracting all those around me. It also occurs at your speed. I can read faster than you can talk, and it does not distract anyone around me.
      If i want to *SEE* what happened i'll go to youtube
      On a news site I want to *READ* about it!
      • Part of the job of reporting is to digest talking heads down to something useful.

      • by forkazoo (138186)

        The thing is that every "video news" website gets it wrong. Nobody cares about the talking heads giving bookends for the content, and nobody wants auto play. So, whenever you go to such a web page, it instantly starts playing some random person giving a banal intro. OTOH, an article saying "X happened" with a video that you can choose to play to see X happening would actually be valuable. If person X gave a speech to the UN or something, then having video of the speech is reasonable. But, yeah, I'll pl

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The NYT uses images, audio and video all the time. They primarily use text and images because that's what most people want. If I wanted a video of the news I'd watch tv.

    • Really? The times has video [nytimes.com] And upon occasion, it's dabbled with less traditional story telling techniques [nytimes.com]

      • by guanxi (216397)

        Not inline as needed, as any (relatively capable) blogger would do. It's text with occasional multimedia added at the periphery.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mr. Slippery (47854)

      Just about any blogger can communicate by inserting images, audio, or video inline in a post

      Just about any blogger can produce noise by inserting images, audio, or video inline in a post.

      If I want the slowness of video news, or if I need to see some detail of intonation from the latest round of political bullshit, I'll go to ABCNNSNBCwhatever and look for the video there. Why would the NYT want to step on their turf?

      I can read well-written text faster than a talking head can read it to me. One of the gr

    • by dabadab (126782)

      Just take a look at this article [nytimes.com]. If you see the same in the print edition then you should come off your acid trip. And it's not that it is gorgeous in its full glory - it is also implemented correctly. On the desktop it does not overload the CPU, it is absolutely enjoyable on mobile devices, hell, it renders OK also in lynx. And note the correct use of videos: you are not expected to watch it like TV, it just enhances the text.

  • Paywalls are an illusion.

    Information just wants to be free.

    I would actually be more likely to talk about the WSJ as a method of how to do digital - it's an add on but they still mostly sell physical papers. And buying a physical paper gets you the add ons for that day.

  • by Maxmin (921568) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:21PM (#45519671)

    NYT Digital (the website) was a separate but wholly-owned company from 1996 until around 2007, merging with the newspaper as the new building opened. Pageviews in the mid 2000s were half a billion per month, with approximately half that going to the homepage alone.

    IIRC, annual revenues for website advertising were $150 million in the late 2000s, damned good for a newspaper site. This was before NYT jumped onto the mobile and paid-digital-subscription bandwagons, which accounts for the $37 million revs. Adverts are still king, even on the website, and that combined with the homepage being half the pageviews is why you see the most expensive placements there.

    While the rest of the newspaper biz has been slow to adopt, NYTD were actively educating the old-school news staff about FB, Twitter, RSS and other common or up-and-coming technologies. They have programmers assigned to the news floor, collaborating with reporters, to build topical databases, perform big data analyses, produce dynamic reporting and graphics and so forth. NYT are doing about as well as can be expected -they're a news organization, yes, but they've converted themselves into a technology firm from the inside-out.

    NYT offers developers REST APIs [nytimes.com] for fetching newsfeeds and the aforementioned databases. Semantic Web is an area of research, and they're on a level with Thomson-Reuters, and to a limited extent Bloomberg. NYT's R&D department (originally attached to the newspaper, not NYTD) produces tools for latent semantic analysis of news, comments, etc.

    When Twitter hit its initial growth spurt there were many predictions it would eat the newspaper business. It hasn't, in fact the news business relies on Twitter for distributing headlines and links. 140 characters and photo links hasn't eliminated the need for in-depth writing, analysis and professional photography.

    Sure, the transition to an all-digital revenue model is their Achilles Heel. Most of the rev comes from the newspaper, and the demographic average is male, 40s and makes > $70K per year. Getting the younger generations to pay for news is the challenge.

    I'm a former NYTDer. I still admire what they've done to adapt. I don't know how they'll survive the next decade, honestly. It'll take a revolution in paid subscriptions to get the younger crowd as part of the paid demographic. HuffPo was being eyed as the primary competition, for awhile, as an advert-only web operation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The NYT consistantly ignores real political issues, covers up for the DNC when possible, and treats a LARGE portion of possible readers as idiots.

    Calling half the country country bumpkins is NOT the way to increase readership. Burying stories posted front and center on MANY other sites and pretending things like Fast and Furious didn't happen is NOT they way to increase confidence in your reporting.

    • Fox news consistently ignores political issues, covers up for the RNC when possible (and at times, when well nigh impossible) and treats ALL possible readers as idiots.

  • Too Little Too Late (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retroworks (652802) on Monday November 25, 2013 @07:38PM (#45520489) Homepage Journal

    1/3 Subscriptions, 1/3 Advertising, 1/3 Classifieds. That was the recipe for newspaper income in the 1970s and 80s. They retrenched initially and lost the Classifieds to Ebay and Craigslist. Now they have 2 which deny each other, if they give free access they gain Advertising, but lose subscriptions, if they charge for Subscription, they may lose Advertising.

    The newspapers OWNED classifieds. They totally OWNED it. They blew it to ebay and Craigslist. So the NYTimes is a great example of playing catch-up ball.

    • It will be interesting to see what happens when the reporter jobs start drying up in all but the major hubs. Many websites now are reporting on what some other news website is reporting as news. When there are no local papers left to pay local reporters, there will be no more local news coverage. There must be a natural equilibrium somewhere but it might be painful to watch.
    • The newspapers OWNED classifieds. They totally OWNED it. They blew it to ebay and Craigslist. So the NYTimes is a great example of playing catch-up ball.

      Yeah but that was because they owned the sole distribution system. Its not the case now. TCP/IP destroyed the classified advertising market.

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