The New York Times is one of the few media that has managed to reinvent itself to face the challenges of the digital age.
In 2011, the newspaper was a pioneer in betting on a model of digital subscriptions that, years later, has proved to be a success and has marked the way for other media to end up with the free bar of news on the Internet. At the end of September last year, the latest available data, the newspaper had 2.4 million digital subscribers, seven times more than those registered in 2011.
The success of the Times model, however, is not an isolated case in the US media ecosystem. Its biggest rival, The Washington Post, acquired by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2013, surpassed the one million digital subscribers last year. Another who has left behind the psychological barrier of the million readers who pay to read the newspaper on the Internet is The Wall Street Journal.
Alone, the New York Times online crosswords offer has exceeded 400,000 paid subscribers, roughly twice as two years ago.
In June 2016, the Times had 212,000 online crossword subscribers. Last June, it had 306,000, according to the company. The newspaper stopped breaking down the number in the quarterly results in 2017 but nothing makes us think the trend is changing, and the number of people searching crossword puzzle answers is growing steadily.
Crosswords are part of the Times’ offensive to rely more on subscriptions and less on advertising, which is increasingly dominated by Facebook and Google. Subscription revenue accounted for almost two-thirds of last-quarter revenue for the Times.
A subscription to crosswords costs US $3.50 per month and includes online access to a daily crossword, 24 years of files and the ability to save progress on one device and resume it on another. Times’ most expensive subscriptions include access to crossword puzzles, but about 60 percent of crossword puzzle subscribers do not pay for the Times news product.
Anyway, crosswords are still a small part of the general business of the Times. In the first quarter, subscription sales of crossword and kitchen products reached a total of US $4.84 million, a fraction of the US $414 million in total company revenues.
At the end of the last quarter, crossword and kitchen products had 453,000 subscribers.
Another milestone that can boast the newspaper is that more than half of their income, 60%, come from users (digital and print) and not advertising. It is the first time in the history of the newspaper in which readers generate more business than advertising. The objective of the Times is that by the year 2020 the revenues of digital subscriptions reach 800 million dollars, double what they had in 2015. This will mean having been able to maintain a journalistic model very similar in relevance and influence for decades having completely transformed their income streams.