The New York Times now has 2.6 million subscribers to its digital products, and a total number of 3.6 million when counting print.
“Clearly we've had a strong boost to our subscriptions business,” said Charlotte Gordon, vice-president, international consumer revenue, NYT, speaking at the Media Subscriptions Summit in London in April, referring to the Trump bump.
“Our success in converting demand around the US election is sadly probably not something we can replicate, but you can see the impact,” she added, pointing to a graph showing nearly three quarters of growth.
In 2017, 60 per cent of the organisation’s revenue, over a billion dollars, came from readers. Gordon walked delegates through some of the strategies the NYT uses to market to potential subscribers, to "keep on track towards our goal of $800 million in digital revenue by 2020".
"A lot of our competition in digital journalism is free. The journalism and the product experience at The New York Times has to be far better than our competition – if we have to attract and retain subscribers at the premium rates that we want to, we must create something worth paying for."
The newsroom at The New York Times publishes 250 original stories every day, and investments have been made towards developing storytelling styles, such as experimenting with virtual reality and producing popular podcasts.
The organisation has also started creating explainers around stories, highlighting what really goes into the reporting effort to get a story.
But the marketing methods have also changed, and The New York Times has made big investments in brand campaigns as well as towards the way it communicates to readers throughout the user experience.
“Marketing used to equal ‘give someone an offer’, but today we market our journalism,” explained Gordon.
The NYT capitalised on the moment the early Trump administration started to pull the newspaper into the news, and used it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the importance of supporting quality journalism.
The title’s "The truth is hard" campaign was its first ever advertisement to run during the Oscars, and featured no call to action for viewers to subscribe.
Its marketing and journalistic missions have become more aligned, said Gordon.
The NYT’s campaign “The truth has a voice”, which ran during the Golden Globes, was based on the newspaper’s coverage of the Weinstein revelations, a story that required more than 100 interviews over five months.
"We’re featuring the journalists behind the investigations in our marketing material. Of course we’re still making offers, but we’re making it more about journalism worth paying for."
A review of the pay model has also taken place, reducing the number of free articles available from the initial 23 articles a month when the paywall was introduced in 2011, to only 10 articles a month, and down to only five free articles a month since the end of 2017.
This represents an effort to make the free experience less attractive but also a shift from relying on creating a habit to moving towards the art of persuasion – the key term used at The New York Times is "priming".
Updates have also been made to the gateway page, the point of conversion where readers can choose the type of subscription they want, focused on merchandise bundles and offers across tiers.
Adding value through partnerships with third parties has also been on the agenda, such as the collaboration the title has with Spotify, primarily geared towards a younger audience.
The outlet has additionally built a strategy for keeping subscribers engaged through events, such as local tours of the New York Times building archives and cultural experiences.
The subscribers who signed up shortly after the United States presidential election, between October 2016 and March 2017, have a heightened engagement and retention rate, Gordon explained.
"We see plenty of opportunity to do more with events and better monetise our base," she added.
Free daily newsletter
- The on-demand audio revolution gathers pace
- The Week in Good News, a weekly newsletter from the NYT, acts as an antidote to the daily news cycle
- NYT uses new interactive design to report on sexual consent on campuses
- Prioritising the reading experience at The Times: Why the paywall prompts radical thinking inside the newsroom
- Study: How local news organisations are managing digital change