What NYT Now Means For the Times and Mobile Journalism

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 12.07.42 PMThe New York Times has been a bit slow getting with the program, as mobile offerings go. NYT Now, an $8 app billed monthly, will offer top stories as curated by Times editors on mobile phones (it’s not clear yet when an iPad version is coming) starting April 2.

I had heard rumors about NYT Now when Executive Editor Jill Abramson and other top dogs from the Times announced the app and other mobile products to be rolled out at SXSW earlier this month, but it seems now the Grey Lady is ready to move away from an “all the news that’s fit to print” mentality to a “fast and engaging news experience” mindset, noted TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden.

NYT Now will feature quick summaries of the day’s biggest Times stories (“Morning and Evening Briefings”) as well as recaps of aggregated pieces from around the web, and it will all be produced by newsroom journalists on a mobile-only team. The $8 app gets you access to the full version of any story inside the app, but don’t expect an endless supply of Times journalism.

Denise Warren, the company’s executive vice president for digital products and services, explained that the NYT’s new options allow for readers to identify their loyalty to the newspaper. NYT Now is the cheapest choice, “core subscription packages” ranging from $15 to $35 a month sit in the middle and Times Premier runs readers $45 per month — promising behind-the-scenes glimpses into the newsroom, exclusive interview clips of reporters, special crossword puzzles and a few other perks.

“We see it as three options,” she said. “Essential, which is NYT Now; extensive, which is the core subscription package; and exclusive, which is the premier plan.”

The Times’ announcement is actually a big deal for a few reasons:

1. TIMES DIGS DEEPER INTO NATIVE — Subscription revenues from NYT Now and other digital packages are, no doubt, being introduced to counter falling print revenues and declines in advertising (they’re up to 760,000 digital subscribers, but the rate of paying customers has slowed in recent quarters). But the more significant point is that the new app will be supported entirely by sponsored posts — no banners or other types of display advertising. “Paid Posts”, as they’re called, will be among regular editorial content on NYT Now, and they’ll soon make their way onto the Times’ standard news app, Lunden reported. Think native is just a fad? Think again.

2. NYT NOW FIRST IN LINE OF APPS — Warren said two more apps are due in the summer. One will be food-centric and the other focused on opinion pieces. It’ll be interesting to follow revenue reports that include the Times’ mobile products.

3. MOBILE EDITORS EARNING STREET CREDClifford Levy, editor of NYT Now, will lead the ten-person team of journalists curating the app. Despite all the talk about algorithms and robot journalism, the legacy paper still values human editorial judgment. A recent article from Digiday, “The rise of the mobile editor”, highlights the new phenomenon; I think we’ll be seeing more job postings for mobile editors. With half of the Times’ traffic coming from mobile, they simply can’t ignore the medium.

On a lighter note, my favorite NYT Now-related stories comes from Capital New York writer Peter Sterne, who wrote a cheeky guide to determining what kind of Times subscriber you are. If you have five minutes (or 45, rather), and are indecisive about what kind of digital subscription you need, it may be a help.

What are your thoughts on NYT Now, and the Times’ latest venture into mobile offerings?  Think you’ll invest $8 a month into the app?