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September 21, 2014

New York Times “All Access” Lays Out the New Landscape

Important Details: It’s an ad insert easy to miss. Slipped into a daily edition of The New York Times this week is a four-page circular for the Times itself. “Now your Times subscription gives you All Access,” says the first page. But it is pages two and three that tell the story.

Under the two-page headline, “Welcome to All Access,” the Times displays a mantra and business plan for the 21st Century. It is centered on gaining and retaining precious print subscribers, who are still the basis for 90% of the paper’s revenue. Basically, it’s a variation of news and information anywhere-you-want-it-as-you-want-it-delivered idea that’s had an uneasy birth. In six panels, the insert lays out:

  • In the a.m.: Home delivery of the paper
  • At your desk: Focusing on desktop access
  • During lunch: Premium crosswords
  • At the airport: The Times’ two downloadable editions, Times Reader and the Electronic Edition
  • On the road: The Times highlights its Times Digest e-mail edition
  • The weekend: Focusing on lifestyle/leisurely reading aspects of the weighty Sunday paper

The Times then wraps up this offer for an All-Access subscription, with pitch to go online or call the Times.

Implications: Outsell believes the Times has the pitch right, but the delivery leaves a bit to be desired. The attempt is right on: capture a reader/customer by moving with her through the day and the week, delivering content where and how she wants it. Capturing that customer is the key to the Times’ financial future, for gaining share of attention and time, and monetizing by increasingly targeted behavioral advertising.

The problem is that the Times’ roster of products is incomplete, focused on a one-way relationship and lacking commercial help to the reader.

It’s incomplete because it ignores mobile communication. Mobile is not about giving the Times readers all kinds of e-downloads of the paper, even if the news can be updated within the Times look-and-feel. Smart mobile devices are proliferating, and the Times’ current phone product is inadequate: a listing of Top 10 stories that offers little of the breadth and depth that is a Times hallmark.

The pitch basically says: This is what the Times provides for you. It hardly mentions the several ways the Times allows readers to customize and personalize their web experience, through alerts and newsletters and more. The Times’ offerings could be improved here, but their promotion is also key.

Lastly, news media have always been about readers’ shopping lives as well as their news and information reading. That’s why the print paper has been such a powerful and profitable force. News media such as the Times can offer their online readers increasingly better ways to research, compare, shop, and buy – teaming with companies of all kinds – and if they do, they’ve got a shot at regaining an essentiality rapidly being lost as readers move to the web.

Let’s give the Times an “A” for marketing and incomplete for execution, a great learning case for all news publishers.