Feb 11, 2021 - Economy

Exclusive: NYT testing digital subscription for "NYT Kids"

NYT Kids Instagram

The New York Times is in the early stages of developing a digital subscription product for families called NYT Kids, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: Standalone digital subscription products are a key driver of The Times' growth and long-term business strategy. A kids-focused product is a departure from the adult-focused lifestyle apps it previously built, like Cooking and Crosswords.

  • "At the highest level, the mission of The Times is to seek the truth and to help people understand the world," said David Perpich, head of standalone products at The Times. "Until now, we've been focused on a certain age, but that mission isn't limited to adults or teens."

Details: The product will build off of an existing NYT Kids print section, launched in 2017, that began appearing monthly in the regular print edition of The Sunday New York Times in 2018.

  • The content will help kids ages 8-11 explore an array of topics and activities including crafts, recipes, thought experiments and physical activities, says Sarah Adler Hartman, an entrepreneur in residence at The Times focusing on NYT Kids.
  • Much of the content will feature "how to" exercises, like how to make a paper airplane according to NASA or how to cope with grief.
  • The product is only being tested in the U.S. for now, Perpich says.

Between the lines: The product is still in the early stages of development. The Grey Lady conducted an alpha test at the end of last year with a few hundred kids.

  • It's now starting to hire for a few new roles that could help build the product into a standalone app, including a program manager and a digital editor, says Adler Hartman. The Times will soon post roles for engineers.
  • Some of what it's building has been informed by feedback from its print section, often letters from kids.

Be smart: Building a kids-focused digital product createst unique challenges, specifically around privacy.

  • NYT Kids will not display advertising.
  • The company is launching the separate children's product as a separate app to ensure that it's compliant with children's digital online privacy laws.
  • The Times has an Instagram account for NYT Kids (@NYTKids), but it's geared to an older audience. (The Instagram minimum age requirement is 13.)
  • The Times has long invested in programs to offer high schools free subscriptions.

The big picture: The Times enters an increasingly crowded kids news space. TIME for Kids launched a new digital subscription last year. NowThis News launched an ad-supported kids product last April.

  • "Beyond the subscription revenue itself, it's also a chance to actually start talking to people earlier in their lives before they might be ready for a New York Times product," says Perpich.

Catch up quick: While its core news product still drives the majority of its new subscribers today, The Times is investing in more in lifestyle services content that will help people create a daily habit with The New York Times' products.

  • About 1/3 of its new digital subscriptions last quarter come from its cooking, games and audio products.
  • On an earnings call last week, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said the company will double down on puzzles in the future as a part of its games strategy.
  • She also confirmed Axios' reporting that the company is testing a subscription for its consumer reviews website Wirecutter.

What to watch: When The Times two years ago announced its lofty goal of reaching 10 million paid digital subscribers by 2025, the ambition seemed aspirational. Now, it looks more than doable. Today, 7.5 million people pay for New York Times content.

  • "There's no reason we can’t have two, three, four times that over time maybe, even more," Kopit Levien said.
  • The Times expects that there are 100 million willing to pay for news in English.

The bottom line: "Theres a big market of kids out there," says Perpich. There are 33 million households with kids under the age of 18. That's a large number of people we can create something of value for."

Go deeper: Youth-focused news is on the rise.

Go deeper