'Times' stops scoffing at Cyber Monday, its own third-biggest sales day since launching its digital subscription model
3:20 pm Dec. 5, 2011
"Cyber Monday may have started as a made-up occasion to give underdog e-commerce sites jealous of Black Friday a day of their own," The New York Times' Claire Cain Miller wrote on Monday, Nov. 28, "but it has become an undeniably real thing—surprising even the people who invented it."
And possibly Miller's employers: The Times' recent Cyber Monday promotion, which offered 50 percent off 26 weeks of Times digital subscription packages and 50 percent off 12- and 26-week digital gift subscriptions, was its third largest sales day since the launch of the paid online model about eight months ago, executives said today. (The top two sales days were the two days immediately following the program's debut on March 28, according to a Times spokesperson.)
"We expect gift subscriptions to provide a continued holiday boost to our digital circulation," said Times Co. chief executive Janet Robinson at the 39th Annual UBS Globa Media Conference.
The spike shows that "there's still a lot of strength in the marketplace and that we still have a lot of runing room in terms of growth," said Times Co. president and general manager Scott Heekin-Canedy.
In October, the Times announced it had racked up 324,000 paid digital subscribers. Although digital subscription growth slowed somewhat during the third quarter, Robinson said at the time that she expected the subscriber total to rise before year's end as a result of the introduction of gift subscriptions, which went on sale the week of Thanksgiving, and corporate accounts.
"We believe the availibility of bulk offerings to these reader segments will inject a reliable cash flow to our new digital revenue streams," she said at the UBS conference.
The Times moved to a digital subscription model earlier this year in order to develop a new revenue stream in the face of an ongoing decline in print advertising. Readers are now prompted to pay for content online and on their tablet readers and smartphones after burning through a monthly limit of 20 free articles, excluding those at which they arrive via blogs and social media.
Executives have been sanguine about the results thus far. (They've already surpassed their reported internal goal of 300,000 digital subscribers during the pay model's first year.) And competitors have been keeping a close eye on the Times' progress as they consider whether they, too, will start charging readers for content that has long been offered for free.
Asked whether the Times Co. would consider a paid digital model at any of its smaller regional newspapers, Robinson said she "would not rule it out." The regional media group includes 15 titles such as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif.
"We are constantly looking at how consumers are adapting to paying for news and information," she said, noting that some regional papers are "seeing some early success."
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