When it comes to transitioning from print to digital, there’s no better case study than The New York Times.
Not only has the NYT flipped the traditional newspaper model, but the scales are still tipping toward the subscriptions side… which is actually not 100% good news (and not just because it means you’ll hit the paywall sooner each month).
The NYT’s latest financial results statement is a buffet of contradiction sandwiches. Subscription revenue is up, but advertising revenue is down in both print AND ONLINE.
If you’re in the online publishing business, your ears should have perked up just now… Because, if NYT.com is really the hummingbird in the digital publishing coal mine, that means that digital ad revenues may never truly measure up to what they were in the heady days of print.
That is, we may be witnessing the transition away from 20th Century ad-supported media… to a subscription media model.
As I mentioned above, the NYTimes subscriber revenue has already eclipsed it’s ad-generated revenue — totally flipping the old model.
With so many papers struggling to keep respectable circulation numbers, you might think that they fortunate few that can deliver an audience would be able to charge some pretty decent fees, but that just isn’t the case.
Ad revenues are just sinking for mass media publications, in favor of more targeted audiences.
The silver lining, of course, is that customers are showing greater willingness to pay for content. In the last DM newsletter, I wrote about the “NYT Anywhere” strategy, which is an attempt to standardize a reader’s content experience across all platforms: Desktop, smartphone, tablet, etc…
From the financial results we’ve seen, the “Anywhere” strategy is working at the news offices of The New York Times. Unfortunately, the boost in subscription revenues is only offsetting the losses in ad revenue.