business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Just to follow up on part of our discussion about how the Times has differentiated itself, Axios had a story a couple of days ago about how the newspaper's "puzzles and games were played more than 8 billion times last year, led by breakout hit Wordle, with 4.8 billion plays — and a Games app redesign is on the way, the company tells Alex.

"Why it matters: The stats underscore gaming's increasing importance to the paper, which offers a $6/month games-only subscription, as well as costlier packages of games bundled with news and more."

Axios writes that "offerings beyond news — such as cooking and product recommendations — are increasingly central to the Times' ability to grow amid a bloodbath in the broader journalism industry.

"The company's subscription revenue increased nearly 10% to $418.6 million in the third quarter of 2023 — with digital product earnings rising nearly 16%, to $282.2 million, driven in part by bundles … The NYT Games app was downloaded 10 million times last year … players made 2.3 billion successful Connections — a relatively new game about finding associations among words."

(Wordle, at least for the moment, is free, though there is some advertising attached.)

But here's the kicker:  "What differentiates the Times' games from myriad other mobile games … is that they don't try to keep you playing for as long as possible to boost ad revenue."

Jonathan Knight, NYT's head of games, tells Axios, "We're not trying to get you to spend 24/7 in our app; we're not trying to get you addicted to solving level after level after level.  Maybe you do two or three of them, maybe just one — some people play first thing in the morning, or it's their before bed habit, or lunch break, or whatever it might be.

"We want to fit into your life, and I think that's really resonating with people."

What this suggests is that the Times, while clearly trying to generate new revenue streams (and doing so very successfully), is thinking about its readers' needs and priorities even while pursuing its own goals.  That's an Eye-Opener - in essence, the Times is seeking lifetime customer value, not the quick hit of a fast revenue bump that may not be sustainable.