Aug 11, 2020 - Economy

Scoop: New York Times exploring a Wirecutter subscription

Data: NYT earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Times is in the early stages of researching a consumer subscription for its product recommendation site Wirecutter, according to a job description posted on LinkedIn.

Why it matters: A central part of The Times' subscription strategy is providing services for people outside of news. More than 1/3 of The Times' net new subscriptions last quarter came from services outside of its core news product, like Cooking and Games (Crosswords).

The role calls for a Director of Marketing "to drive the strategy and go-to-market execution of its future consumer subscription product."

  • David Perpich, Head of Standalone Products at The Times, confirmed the effort to Axios.

Catch up quick: The Times bought Wirecutter in 2016 for over $30 million. To-date, most of the site's revenue has come from affiliate marketing from retailers like Amazon and Walmart when a person clicks from the recommendation site to the retailer and completes the transaction.

  • Perpich says the site has experienced a surge in affiliate revenue thanks to people looking for new things for their homes during COVID, like office and cleaning supplies.
  • But over the long term, Perpich argues, "it's better to be in a position of having multiple revenue streams" for the brand.

Be smart: The Times wouldn't be the first company to put this type of content behind a paywall. Consumer Reports, while offering some free content, also offers a $10 monthly digital subscription and a $39 yearly digital subscription. Its full subscription, which includes 12 issues of its print magazine, is $59 annually.

Details: "Part of why we opened that job description is to start investigating," says Perpich.

  • "To launch a subscription offering you need to deeply understand the audience, what the willingness to pay is, and what the execution needs to be like. Having someone come in from a marketing perspective is a key part of puzzle for us."
  • The subscription, while still in an exploratory phase, would compliment other standalone subscriptions, like Cooking and Crosswords. Consumers could buy it standalone, or they could buy it as a part of a larger all-access package.

Yes, but: Even as The Times explores new subscription services, it's also been quick to sunset ones that it doesn't think will develop any real traction.

  • The Times quietly killed the build-out of its "Parenting" vertical as a stand-alone subscription and folded it back into its core news product earlier. this year, Perpich confirmed.
  • Asked if the company was currently thinking about standalone subscriptions for some of its sub-verticals like "Well" (health) and "Books," Perpich said the Times isn't currently pursuing those topics as standalone subscriptions.

The big picture: The Times has a stated goal of hitting 10 million subscribers by 2025. Perpich says new subscription products could help it get there.

  • He notes that the "interconnectedness" across subscriptions is part of the company's strategy. "They send traffic back and forth to each other, which adds more overall subscribers and builds affinity to the brand."
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