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The NYT subscriber strategy and why the model is hard to replicate

What's New in Publishing 22 Feb 2021 08:15

New York Times says 100 million would be willing to pay for news in English

My first gig in journalism was finding stories in data, doing data-driven journalism. It wasn’t exactly a scene from Oscar-winning movie Spotlight (about The Boston Globe’s investigative journalism unit).

Sometimes it was about finding outliers and trying to work out the story behind them. Usually it was about visualizing something interesting. Readers especially liked pieces that told a straightforward story – and the easier the plot, the better the headline.

I switched several beats over the years. But I could never resist a good data story. That’s why I love reporting on quarterly results, mostly Big Tech but also media companies.

Recently, Disney announced its streaming service hit almost 95 million subscribers but average revenue per user (ARPU) went from $5.56 to $4.03. That means the company is using a lot of discounts and this approach is eating into its margins.

In Disney’s case it means the company started aggregating subscribers numbers, combining Disney+ and similar, cheaper offerings in India and Indonesia called Hotstar. This is not unusual in that part of the world. Technology and media giants are trying to capture the vast Indian market, using lower subscription prices.

When it comes to the media companies I am most obsessed with quarterly results from The New York Times Company. “The Gray Lady” has a clear goal: reaching 10 million subscribers by 2025. I am sure that by now even the last employee knows this and the rest of the industry is watching.

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