When it comes to business models and monetization strategies, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Even within the same industry, services can vary widely in how they’re sold, and products can be configured to suit any price-point.
The New York Times is a great example of this model variation. While the paper has been around for more than a century, its business model and monetization strategies have been through major evolutions. This article will walk you through these evolutions and how the Times is evolving yet again to remain relevant and profitable in today’s evolving world of digital news.
“New York Times Digital”
In 2018, The New York Times officially rebranded its digital properties as part of a content and brand refresh. The paper renamed its digital arm The New York Times Company (TNYT) and spun off its print side as a stand-alone company, The New York Times Print Company (NYTPro). The paper’s digital arms also became part of a larger group called The New York Times News Company (TNYTNC), which also owns sites like the New York Times Food Blog and the New York Times Arts & Leisure Blog. While the print side continues to be a profitable business, the digital side faced significant losses in 2019 as the company pivoted to attract a different audience.
Monetizing The New York Times Back In The Day
The New York Times was one of the first major media companies to realize the value of a digital platform. The business already owned a number of websites in the 20th century, but didn’t put all its eggs in one digital basket before the 21st century.
Launched in 1896 as a newspaper and later expanded to include magazines, books, and other content, the Times struggled financially for much of its early history. Multiple attempts at digital transformation — including a 2001 buyout by American media company Red Ventures — only strengthened the business’ focus on digital. By 2016, the Times Company’s digital arms took in about 18% of its total revenue compared to 3% from print.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exact figures, the Times estimated in 2018 that its digital properties generated about $500 million in revenue, primarily from advertising and affiliate sales.
How Did The New York Times Get Its Start?
The New York Times was originally established in 1851 as the New York Press by former newspaper publisher and editor Henry Raymond. Its first president was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also better known as Mark Twain. A former newspaperman himself, Twain helped establish the paper as a professional and authoritative voice in America.
In 1896, The New York Times purchased its rival, the New York Tribune, for $14 million in stock. The New York Times was already the country’s leading newspaper in circulation and advertising at the time, and the acquisition doubled its reach. The paper’s first CEO was the journalist and investment banker George W. R. Martin who served in that position until his death in 1930. The Times’ first chairman was Edward J. Davison, who was also the chairman of the U.S. Steel Corporation.
In order to reach a broader audience, the Times partnered with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in the 1920s to create the Evening News, broadcast live from 6-9 p.m. Eastern Time. This partnership with ABC would continue for 64 years, until ABC sold its stake in the Times in 1978. In 1949, the Times became a founding member of the Associated Press (AP), which would also become its primary news partner in the digital age.
Modern-Day The New York Times And Its Evolving Digital Business
Starting in the 2010s, the Times’ digital strategy focused on attracting a younger audience through live video content and user-generated content. Around the same time, the newspaper also made major investments in technology to improve its distribution and engagement with readers.
In 2016, the Times Company officially launched a subscription product known as the NYT Reader. The product is essentially a simplified version of its website designed to be accessible on mobile devices. In addition to a simplified design, the NYT Reader also bundles in content from its various publications along with a personalized newspaper experience.
Two years later, the Times rolled out its own standalone app, the New York Times Official App, which is currently available for iOS and Android devices. The app is ad-free and features curated content from the newspaper, as well as live scores, local weather, and other tidbits of information. Since its launch, the New York Times Official App has reportedly reached 500 million monthly active users.
The NYT Audience Has Evolved As Well
According to the company, the NYT Audience — the demographic group the Times Company primarily targets — are people between the ages of 18 and 49 who live in the United States. About 83 million of them are daily or weekly readers of the New York Times.
In 2010, the Times Company acquired the Huffington Post for a cool $30 million. At the time, the company said it was looking for a “golden earner” to help fund its operations and invested heavily in technology and editorial capacity. In 2018, the company sold the Huffington Post to American media firm Blue Ventures. The transaction was reportedly worth about $150 million.
The Times Company’s Major Investments In Technology
The Times Company has been particularly innovative in its use of technology. In addition to creating a simplified NYT Reader and New York Times Official App, the company has invested heavily in expanding its reach online by creating a video news platform and expanding its international operations. In 2021, the paper launched Times Colonnade, a digital newsletter that provides an inside look at the news and gossip circles in Hollywood. The company also purchased the Style Blogger, a style-focused platform, for an undisclosed amount in 2018.
The Future Of The New York Times
The New York Times Company currently has about 60,000 employees, and its revenue for 2020 is expected to be about $15.9 billion.
The company said it will use some of that money to invest in new technologies and resources to grow its business and influence in the digital sphere. In addition, the paper has pledged to spend about $500 million on newsrooms and platforms globally.
When it comes to publishing, the Times Company is certainly not short on resources. But with the world shifting to digital, the company will need to adapt and evolve to remain relevant and profitable in the era of the internet.