Shorter Times?

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The New York Times. (Newseum.org)
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The New York Times is considering the introduction of a truncated version of its daily print edition at a discounted rate as the paper mulls new strategies for maximizing the number of people who pay to read its content.

The potential offering "would be significantly shorter than the current edition and offer a selection of the day's best content for roughly half the price," according to a recent reader survey that was shared with Capital. As with a standard print subscription, it would also come with unlimited digital access, the survey said. Daily delivery of the full print edition costs $23.60 to $67.60 every four weeks depending on location and frequency.

A shorter print option would dovetail with new digital apps the Times has been rolling out to cater to readers who aren't necessarily willing to pay for nytimes.com's full buffet of content, to which unlimited digital access begins at $15 a month.

Those apps, such as NYT Now, which offers a curated stream of Times stories for $8 a month, aren't off to the most impressive start in terms of sign-ups. During the second quarter of 2014, the Times logged 32,000 new subscriptions across all of its digital offerings combined, putting the total number of people paying to read the Times on web browsers and mobile devices at around 831,000.

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Those reader-driven circulation dollars are seen as a key growth area in the face of ongoing declines in advertising, particularly in the print category.

But while circulation revenues have been a success story in the three years since the Times began charging for unlimited access to its digital content, it appears they are beginning to plateau. Circulation revenues were up 1.4 percent during the second quarter and are projected to remain flat during the third quarter of this year as compared with the same period in 2013.

The Times is therefore looking at all manner of possibilities in terms of growing its subscriber base. For instance, it will introduce foreign currency billing options for international readers in October, digital chief Denise Warren told analysts on a Tuesday morning conference call.

In addition to a shorter print version, the Times is also considering free access to Times Premier, its premium digital subscription package, for home delivery subscribers, according to the reader survey.

The survey also asked participants how likely they would be to "keep your print subscription" if it came with perks like meet-and-greets with Times journalists and early-access to "sought-after restaurants, shows and events."

"The survey is meant to provide input from existing customers on their level of interest in various potential new initiatives," said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman. "And, each of the things you mention would fit into the category of ideas in the earliest stages of exploration."