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Becoming The New York Times

Becoming The New York Times
When the Grey Lady meets the Internet, a lot happens. See for yourself.

The legendary publisher and media giant have seen it all – Men walking on Moon, Cap. E. J. Smith sinking with Titanic, the Civil Rights Movement, and more. Though the publisher began its run with a newspaper, it won over the digital-only publications by a landslide. The publisher’s traditional roots succored the digital spin-off and now, NYTimes.com is the most valuable part of the whole company.

Apparently, it’s hard to even imagine The New York Times without its online presence. Here’s what we found compelling while working on the piece – NYTimes.com will push you to take calculated risks – on both editorial and monetization fronts.

Without any further ado, let’s dive into the story of The New York Times.

Discretion: We’ll cite the parent company of the NYTimes.com while disclosing the revenue data sometimes. And, we have to extrapolate occasionally to complete the article and derive inferences. We tend to cite all the data with their respective sources unless the original source isn’t found online.

How it all started?

“The market is booming for newspapers on the World Wide Web”

– John F. Kelsey III, co-founder, The Kelsey Group, Inc.

The official NYTimes.com made it online on Jan 22, 1996. If you’re new here, we’ve already talked about the state of online newspapers back in the day here and here. Long story short, online newspapers were struggling to justify the investments they’ve made on websites. The Financial Times, for instance, employed “Net Team” to keep itself alive on the Internet.

Because of the fall of newspapers online, Don Logan, President of Time, Inc., called Internet as “The Great Black Hole”. We could go on and on. But you get the picture.

Still, The New York Times decided to see what it takes. The rest, as they say, is history.

How many visitors the NYTimes.com have had?

NYTimes 1998 Stats

NYTimes.com had around 250,000 users per day (Src), just after two years of its online foray. That’s 3x more than the Guardian. Apparently, it’s a huge feat. According to another source, NYTimes had more than one million registered users in 1998 (Src).

It seems undoable, but the publisher’s conscientious move rationalize the numbers. Yeah, most tend to oversee how The New York Times tested itself by opting to be a part of America Online. The newspaper giant launched @times in 1996, to 4 million subscribers of America Online.

Without a surprise, it worked. We believe AOL was a perfect ground for NYTimes to warm up and get ready to venture out.  

Where they are today?

The market cap of The New York Times* is $4.90 billion at the time of writing the post.

*Here we refer to the parent company The New York Times, which holds several other media assets excluding NYTimes.com.

NYTimes traffic and revenue in 2018

If you think that’s broad, the Times disclosed that the digital advertising rose 8.6 percent, to $259 million last year. The total readers hit an all-time high of 136 million. Most importantly, the publisher managed to convince 3.6 million people to pay for its digital content (Src). When the media industry struggled to cut down losses and sustain their digital revenue, the Times added 265,000 subscribers in the last quarter. That being said, NYTimes.com faced its own problems and dealt with joint venture losses.

What’s more impressive?

The Times won an astonishing 60 Pulitzer Prizes, nearly doubling the paper’s Pulitzer count. Increasing subscribers and Pulitzer prices mutually help each other. They’re deliberately tied to each other, not serendipitously.

Becoming The New York Times

Ciao, Grey Lady

1996 – 2000

We’ve just shown you how The New York Times went from thousands to millions. Obviously, there need to be a lot of strategies, decisions, ups, and downs. Let’s start where the Times started.

Start Small, Go Big

As we mentioned earlier, NYTimes.com has been taking calculated risks right from the start. The first example is how the publisher released a beta version after its short-presence on America Online.

NYTimes.com Beta

Yeah, NYTimes.com beta was released on the Internet, half-a-year before the actual launch. It gave the headroom for the print publisher to try-out the Internet. To be frank, the Times doesn’t have to be so cautious. Considering it’s legacy and print readership at the time (it was the country’s biggest-circulation all-week paper with a weekday circulation of 1,071,120), it could’ve directly jumped into the online newspaper industry.

But, the Times decided to keep it slow and steady, at the start. The same ideology continues to help the publisher succeed in most of its bets.

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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