The New York Times plans to launch two new subscription products on April 2: NYT Now, a standalone iOS app that costs $8 a month, and Times Premier, which the company describes as a “premium subscription service designed for The Times enthusiast.”
NYT Now — which you can also access if you have a traditional digital and/or home delivery subscription — presents readers with what its lead editor, Clifford Levy, called “the most important and compelling stories from The New York Times over the course of the day,” and it will also serve up stories from other sections, depending on the time of day you look at the app. A screen called “Our Picks” takes readers to stories at other outlets, or sometimes to older New York Times stories. (The Times has no plans yet to build an Android version. “Our first step is launching on iPhone,” Times spokesperson Linda Zebian writes in an email.)
“We’re basically curating the Web so you don’t have to,” said Levy. “This has been an enormous hit with the people who’ve tested the app.” NYT Now has its own editorial staff of about 15-20, a newsroom within the newsroom, and Levy said he’s asked editors and reporters throughout the Times to send suggested links. Outsiders who have tested the app “have told us they’re going to Twitter and Facebook less because they have this,” he said.
“We think it just enhances our relationship with the reader,” said Times Co. Executive Vice President Denise Warren, who oversees the company’s digital products, in another phone call. With so much content banging around, “Who better to go to for some judgment than The New York Times?”
The Times isn’t just sharing links to be nice. Mobile news apps “are largely a morning idiom,” Levy said. Although about half the Times’ traffic comes through mobile now, “in the normal news day it’s hard to get people to come to news apps in the afternoon and evening,” he said. In testing, they found that later in the day, people came back to the app to check out the curation feed.
NYT Now aims to be more than just a news reader, Levy said. “We want our readers to feel like this app really knows them, really knows the rhythms of their day.” The app greets you with a briefing that says, “Good morning.”
“I know it sounds relatively trivial,” Levy said, but many testers told him, “Wow, The New York Times has never talked to me like that before.” Some content on the app will take a more conversational tone, while hard news will not. But the story feed — which Levy said would use the “well,” or center of the Times homepage, as a guide for story selection — offers some other ways in to content. Some stories have bullet-point summaries.
Other “cards” on the app’s feed present longer reads at various times of day: A “lunchtime read” and a “nice lean-back read” at night. Those are displayed with an estimate of how long they’ll take to get through. The Times worked with Apple to time those pieces to an iPhone’s internal clock — if you live in Honolulu, you won’t get the lunchtime read as you bumble your phone off your bedside table.
There’s not much customization available on the app right now. “We would love to make all of our products more personalized,” Warren said. “Right now this is how we’re launching; we want to get it in the marketplace.” Levy said the ability to save stories for later is a kind of customization. The company will collect data on how people use the app and adapt as necessary, he said.
Non-subscribers can view 10 articles per month on the app, the same number of stories they can see on nytimes.com. “We just thought we should be consistent,” Warren said. “You have to start somewhere.” Should they look at the Times’ website on another platform, NYT Now subscribers will also see a special icon next to stories unlocked on the app that means they can read them.
The only advertising on NYT Now will be “Paid Posts,” the Times’ native advertising units.
So what about Times Premier?
Times Premier is for “our current loyalists, the people who want the highest level of connection with The New York Times,” Warren said. It will cost $45 per four-week period or an additional $10 on top of a home-delivery subscription. Some of the stuff you get for $585/year:
- “Times Insider,” a behind-the-curtain feature about the company’s journalism edited by Dave Smith. When I mentioned to Warren that some of us outside the Times kind of enjoy doing those stories from time to time, she laughed and said, “Competition is good!”
- Family access, which lets you share your account with two family members. Current subscribers may have received a notice they can share their subscription with another family member, something for which Warren said “I don’t think we’ve done the best job marketing.” People don’t want to share their passwords, she said. This is better for them.
- Some premium bennies like two free e-books per month, reserved seating at Times events and a special pack of crosswords.
The Times is also launching a twice-weekly email roundup called “What We’re Reading” that sends links to off-site articles chosen by Times people like David Carr and Jodi Kantor. “Curation is kind of a theme for us,” Warren said. “We think that will add a lot of value to subscription bundles.”