The New Yorker’s Shifting Online Strategy: Engaging Readers and Finding Its Pricing “Sweet Spot”

New Yorker Homepage (New Yorker Online Homepage, 7/14/14)

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the New Yorker’s plans to alter its online strategy. The publication plans to redesign its website, both on the backend to make it easier for staff to manage and on the front end to make it easier for consumers to use; with particular thought given to accessibility and ease of use on mobile devices. In addition, the New Yorker is planning on adjusting their pricing strategy for the website and making the move to a metered paywall. Most of us have been exposed to a metered paywall.

If you’ve spent time on websites such as AdAge, The Economist or the New York Times (the source of this story) you’ve probably noticed the messages that either appear within the site’s pages or show up as a message box after a certain number of articles have been read that indicate that this article is the last free one you can view. When you’ve hit your limit you’re then given the option to subscribe in some form, in order to view all the content you’d like during the duration of your subscription. This pricing/promotion strategy has become increasingly popular for online publications as more of them have come to the realization that online advertising won’t quite pay the bills—related in part to marketers paying less for clicks from banner ads and other forms of digital advertising displayed on websites.

From a marketing management standpoint, what’s particularly interesting about the New Yorker’s shift to a metered paywall is the plan to initially offer the entire site’s content for free during a three month promotional period. This will hopefully help bring in new readership from around the globe and persuade consumers of the value of having unlimited access to the articles being provided by the publication. The other value of this approach in a digital space is particularly intriguing. Specifically, the New Yorker intends to use all of the data collected to help determine how to price its metered paywall approach and determine where the sweet spot is for the number of free articles to provide per period of time. It will be interesting to see ultimately where the organization lands in terms of these factors based on the wealth of data accumulated during the promotional period.

So, if you were the manager in charge of ultimately making this decision:

  • What kinds of web collected data would you be most interested in for the purpose of making the decision of how many articles to provide for free and how to price a subscription?
  • Would you consider offering a tiered subscription plan and if so why? What would you want to see in the collected data order to suggest the value of such an approach?
  • How would you go about articulating how your analysis of the data led to your decision on these matters if you had to justify it to the Board of Directors?
  • What kinds of metrics would you put in place in order to track the effectiveness of the metered paywall that you would implement?