In March, the New York Times kicked off a new strategy of slicing and dicing its content into apps focused at more targeted audiences, and today it is launching the latest effort in that area: NYT Opinion, a digital subscription product and app, that give users access to deeper Op-Ed content, from the New York Times and aggregated from elsewhere, priced at $6 for a four-week subscription.
As a point of comparison, the company’s NYT Now app — aimed at providing a news digest — costs $7.99 for a four-week subscription.
And as with other microsite-type launches from the NYT, existing core digital and home delivery subscribers and Times Premier subscribers get it for free (those subscriptions range from $15 to $45 per month). Non-subscribers will be able to read 10 articles in the app free every month.
While NYT Now was targeting users who are on the move and do not necessarily want the full-on NYT experience, NYT Opinion is the newspaper’s first attempt at distilling a particular vertical section into a standalone, paid service.
“As the first standalone digital subscription to focus on one specific content area, NYT Opinion seeks to satisfy those readers who want even more engagement with Times commentary by delivering an incredibly rich user experience rooted in a continuous stream of world-class news analysis on both mobile and on the web,” said Denise Warren, executive vice president, digital products and services, The New York Times, in a statement.
It’s not clear why Op-Ed was picked first but at a guess I would think that it’s probably one of the most shared and engaged areas of the site already — perhaps with more infrequent NYT readers visiting it as a result — and so it makes sense for them to try to tap that for more revenue.
In fact the popularity of the Op-Ed pages in the age of social media are highlighted by the NYT’s OpEd editor himself:
“The communal nature of the Internet and the rise of social media have allowed for more vibrant discussion of The Times’s opinion pieces,” said Andrew Rosenthal, The Times’s editorial page editor, in a statement. “With the introduction of NYT Opinion and the new features we have added to the Opinion section on NYTimes.com we hope to lead more engaged readers to our content and provide an even deeper connection to our columnists and the global conversation.”
I suspect that we may see the same treatment get applied over time to the NYT’s arts, business and sports sections.
As you might suspect from this age of mobile/desktop parity, it looks like NYT Opinion content will be available across both the newspaper’s web presence as well as via the app. From what we understand, it will include not just content written for the Op-Ed pages but also further content available just to those paying for NYT Opinion.
And while there is already a song and dance made about especially popular columnists at the paper, the ability to follow them and other “voices” will be made even easier to do with the introduction of a “follow” feature.
Those columnists and other contributors will also be making themselves available for interaction with readers by way of the very originally titled “Q&A” feature, bringing the sometimes aloof-seeming NYT even closer to everyday readers. The first Q&A will be published Thursday, June 5, with Nick Kristof, the company says.
It looks like while the NYT is getting more and more interested in the idea of positioning itself as a news aggregator — it did the same in NYT Now too — it will do it in a way where it continues to segregate its own content from that of the rest: a section on the NYT Opinion app called “Today” will have all the articles from the opinion section at NYTimes.com; while “Op-Talk” will be “a comprehensive and curated stream of the most provocative and compelling commentary from around the web, as selected and analyzed by a new staff of Times editors and writers.” That staff will be led by Paul Smalera, ex-Reuters and Fortune.
On top of this there will be a “read later” feature called “My Reads.”
All in all, this looks like a smart move for the NYT and if anything it’s surprising that it’s taken them this long. Then again, the Op-Ed pages were first started in 1970 and, judging by how the NYT summarises its own Op-Ed history in is own news release, were only given their first milestone updates in 2011, when the newspaper expanded the coverage to Sunday and also kicked off more video coverage (video seems to get little play, so far, in NYT Opinion). I guess sometimes the most thoughtful things take a little more time to get out.