New York Times Puts Newsletters Behind Paywall to Boost Subscribers
(Bloomberg) -- New York Times Co. is putting 18 newsletters behind a paywall, going toe to toe with rival offerings from Twitter, Facebook and Substack Inc. in an effort to boost subscribers.
The subscriber-only emails will be a mix of new and existing newsletters written by Times journalists and contributors in its news and opinion sections. They’ll focus on a range of topics, including politics, technology, religion, economics, health and lifestyle.
The Times already produces about 50 newsletters that reach about 15 million people each week. Company executives say email, a relatively primitive method of digital distribution, has proved to be especially effective at attracting and retaining paying customers.
Readers who open newsletters are “far more likely to pay and stay,” Alex Hardiman, the Times’ chief product officer, said in an interview.
The company leads the newspaper industry, with more than 8 million total subscriptions. But growth has begun to slow after a record 2020 driven by a chaotic news cycle. The newsletter initiative lets the company leverage its staff and contributors in ways that potentially boost customers and revenue.
Current Times newsletters that will become subscriber only in the coming weeks include “Parenting,” “Smarter Living,” which will focus on back-to-work issues, “Watching,” which recommends shows and movies on streaming services, and “On Soccer with Rory Smith.”
Seven of the newsletters will be new, including a few written by high-profile journalists such as Jay Caspian Kang, Kara Swisher and Peter Coy. A few existing newsletters -- like “DealBook” with Andrew Ross Sorkin and “The Morning” written by David Leonhardt -- will remain free to nonsubscribers.
The 18 newsletters will become part of a Times digital subscription, including online access to the flagship newspaper, that starts at $1 a week and increases to about $200 annually after the first year.
Times shares were up less than 1% on Thursday in New York. They were down 8.8% this year through Wednesday’s close.
More to Follow
Opinion Editor Kathleen Kingsbury, who oversees many of the newsletters going behind the paywall, said the company plans to introduce more newsletters exclusive to subscribers in the coming weeks and could include serialized novels or musicians discussing their craft.
The Times is competing with several subscription newsletter platforms. They are all vying for consumers’ wallets and, in some cases, even trying to poach Times’ journalists by offering them large advances.
Perhaps the most high-profile, Substack Inc., is a startup that helps writers publish email newsletters and takes a 10% cut from those who charge their subscribers. Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. have also recently introduced newsletter platforms.
Hardiman said the Times will stand out partly by offering newsletters at no extra charge to its subscribers. Some consumers may not want to pay separately for individual, rival newsletters on other platforms, she said.
To Times writers who get offers from competing newsletter platforms, the publisher emphasizes its own large audience and infrastructure, including legal support, copy editing and promotion, which Kingsbury called “pretty essential” for ambitious journalism.
“We’ve been able to make a good case to our writers that the Times offers stability in a way that the tech platforms haven’t established themselves as doing,” she said.
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