After struggling to find a sustainable business model and sizable user base, The New York Times today announced it will shut down its news summary application NYT Now. The publisher claims that the innovations developed in the app have now been incorporated into the Times’ other digital platforms, including its flagship NYTimes app. Specifically, the main app has the same curated feel pioneered by NYT Now, the company says, and a easy-to-scan list of the day’s top stories.
In reality, NYT Now was a mobile experiment that ran its course. Introduced in 2014, the idea was to offer readers a selection of the day’s “top” news for less than the cost of a full subscription. The paper was also looking to appeal to a younger, more mobile audience who didn’t grow up with newspapers, and instead read their news online.
Originally, the app offered $8 per month subscriptions, which was around half the price of the lowest-cost digital subscription.
However, last May, The NYT dropped the subscription model altogether, and turned to brand sponsorships as a replacement. At the time, the publisher admitted that the app had “not seen the number of subscriptions we were hoping for,” according to a company spokesperson. “We’ve learned that we need to spend sufficient time building the audience for a new product before full monetization,” they added.
The NYT didn’t then disclose the number of subscribers it had, but an internal company memo claimed that the experiment with lower-cost subscriptions was “much less successful.”
The truth of the matter is that it was difficult for NYT Now to compete with freely available news on the web, as well as with other dedicated news-reading applications, like SmartNews, Apple News, Flipboard and others. And that was especially true when trying to target a younger generation who didn’t grow up in the era of having to pay for their news content.
According to The NYT, the app had 334,000 total unique users at its peak in May 2015, and it averaged 257,000 unique users over the last three months. According to data from Sensor Tower, the app had approximately 900,000 downloads worldwide on iOS and Android from launch through today.
Ahead of the app’s final shutdown, planned for September, many of its features have already made their way to the core mobile app, including the morning and evening news briefings, bullet-point lists and more conversational tone, The NYT also claims.
As of next month, the app will no longer be updated but registered users will be invited to subscribe to The NYT via email. The app will be pulled from the app store the week of Aug. 29.