When The New York Times announced its digital subscription model in March 2011, it was considered a bold move by many industry experts. The question was: would people really be willing to spend money on digital content that they were used to getting for free?
As it turned out, the answer is yes. Seven and a half years after the introduction of its metered paywall, the Times has more than 2.5 million digital news subscribers accounting for 36 per cent of the company’s subscription revenues in the first nine months of 2018. “We believe that our success with subscriptions across digital and print is a tribute to the quality and creativity of the journalism produced by our colleagues in The New York Times newsroom and editorial departments”, CEO Mark Thompson said during the Times Company’s earnings call earlier this month.
Interestingly, the Times saw a significant uptick in digital subscriptions after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016. Despite Trump’s repeated, harsh criticism of the country’s leading newspaper, the Times gained roughly a million digital subscriptions under his presidency. “It is true that intense interest in U.S. politics gave us additional digital momentum in late 2016 and early 2017”, Thompson conceded, adding that “our strategy and current digital growth does not depend on that, or indeed any single strand of news. It is this breadth, and our proven ability to extend Times quality to new topics and new media that convinces us that we can scale our digital business further and faster than anyone else”.