Coming Soon: A Juniors' Edition of The New York Times?
"Who took my ThursdayStyles? I wasn't done with it!" (Photo credit: TheGiantVermin)
A new CEO is supposed to bring a new way of looking at problems. So how’s this for some new thinking from New York Times Co. chief Mark Thompson:
He’s looking at launching an edition of the paper just for youngsters.
On a conference call to discuss the publisher’s fourth-quarter earnings, Denise Warren, chief advertising officer and general manager of nytimes.com, acknowledged that the Times is gauging “the potential for an entry-level product,” among other explorations.
That’s presumably an allusion to a youth-targeted digital edition called NYT Junior, which is one of several possible new products the Times has been asking readers about in a survey, reports Ad Age’s Nat Ives.
Get ‘em while they’re young, right? It’s not such a far-fetched idea. Time and Sports Illustrated both have for-kids versions, while the Huffington Post launched a vertical called Huffpost High School (later rebranded Huffpost Teen) in 2011.
Asked about NYT Junior, a Times spokeswoman told me, via email, “We are testing concepts for how to package our core digital subscription bundles and/or potentially introduce new paid products as we close in on two years after the digital subscription launch. This one, yes, is something designed for first users, but I can’t give you much more clarity as we are in a testing/surveying phase.”
[Update: I now know a bit more about NYT Junior and its target audience. See the end of this post for further details.]
It was the first earnings call for Thompson, who joined the Times last fall after a long career at the BBC. “I took this job not just because I’ve been a devoted user of The New York Times for many years but because I believe it’s one of a handful of global news brands which can not just survive but can thrive in this global era,” he said.
Continuing strength in paid digital circulation — the Times now has 668,000 digital subscribers — helped the Times Co. to beat Wall Street estimates despite a downward trend in ad sales. Thompson said subscription sales will likely taper off a bit in the first quarter of 2013, in the wake of newsworthy events like the presidential election, Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown school massacre.
Revenues for the quarter rose 5.2% to $575.8 million, driven by a 16.1% gain in circulation revenues.
Yet while the company’s cash stockpile now exceeds its debt “for the first time in memory,” according to CFO Jim Follo, it’s not yet in a position to return some of that cash to stockholders, says Thompson. “We believe it’s in the best interest of the company to maintain a conservative balance sheet. We do not, therefore, think this is an appropriate time to restore a dividend.”
Update: A Times source says NYT Junior would be targeted not at very young readers but at college students and twenty-somethings. The idea would be to offer them a limited-content version at a price point calibrated to a just-starting-out-in-life budget. To reflect that information, I’ve changed “Children” to “Juniors” in my headline and “kids” to “youngsters” in the copy.