Building a Successful Advertising Business from a Subscription-First Model

In 2020, The New York Times set a record for its subscription business.

The news outlet added 2.3 million digital-only subscriptions last year alone, bringing the total number of subscriptions to its digital products and print newspaper to more than more 7.5 million. By focusing on improving the reader experience, the Times has built stronger relationships with its subscribers and knows what type of information and storytelling resonates with their influential audience.

In this keynote video, from Publisher Forum Virtual Spring 2021, Lisa Ryan Howard, SVP, General Manager, Media explains how The Times is focusing on fewer, higher quality ads and using its first-party data to offer targeting based on emotional states and reader motivations to provide more powerful ad experiences.

The Times not only deprioritized ads to focus on unprecedented subscription growth, in June they launched a first-party data marketplace for direct-sold ads using just its own first-party data. They plan to build out more than 75 audience groups based on characteristics like age, income, technology enthusiasts, and people interested in fashion. They’re also working on building out proprietary ad metrics, like time spent.

In Q4 of 2020, digital ads using The New York Times’ first-party data accounted for more than 20% of the media giant’s core revenue. With their first-party data strategy, the Times had a head start on surviving life after the cookie.