The New York Times (NYT) is a newspaper that has been in publication since 1896, a period that spans four generations of the leadership by the Ochs-Sulzberger family (Businessweek, 2005). Recent turmoil due to dozens of stories fabricated by the young reporter Jayson Blair has damaged the reputation, and ended up in dismissal of both Blair, and Howell Raines, the editor in chief at the time. Under the leadership of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Raines replacement, Bill Keller, created a different culture in the newsroom, but one that did not appear to help increase the NYT’s revenues (Businessweek, 2005). The newspaper is facing financial difficulties, and although circulation rates are relatively stable, the cost of maintaining credible journalism is at high compared to the emerging digital information portals found at no cost to consumers. Looking at the situation from the perspective of opportunity in 2005, and given the emergence of digital information and the Internet, the NYT is faced with the challenge of being relevant, and needs a strategy to maintain and increase revenues, as well as uphold the reputation of a highly trusted source of professional journalism.
NYT Situational Analysis
In order to establish a comprehensive marketing strategy for the NYT, a situation analysis will need to be completed. The situation analysis is the core of marketing’s goal in identifying new opportunities to satisfy unmet consumer wants and needs (Finch, 2012). This will include a very brief SWOT analysis, which is the typical and favored starting point for performing a situation analysis. Finch (2012) defines SWOT as “ analytical procedure that requires consideration of the firm’s internal Strengths and Weaknesses relative to the Opportunities and Threats posed by the external environment” (sec. 1. 2). The objective of the situation analysis is to uncover viable market opportunities “ using the 4 Cs framework: company, customers, competitors, and climate/culture” (Finch, 2012, sec. 2. 1). To summarize, the primary objective in the analysis is to identify market opportunities by demonstrating gaps between consumer preferences and the current array of competitive brands (Finch, 2012).
The New York Times has a long history in professional journalism (Businessweek, 2005). Dating back to 1896, four generations of Ochs-Sulzberger leadership, the New York Times newspaper achieved a record-breaking haul of seven Pulitzer Prize awards 2002, primarily due to their comprehensive journalism covering the events of September 11, 2001. The NYT was no stranger to Pulitzers, the standard of journalism greatness in the industry, having achieved them on a consistent basis. Under the Sulzberger leadership, a great emphasis was put upon journalism content and accuracy, with a staff of nearly 1, 200 reporters. In the mid-1990’s, the NYT led the market as the first Old Media companies to enter cyberspace (Businessweek, 2005). This put them at an advantage as one of the pioneers to enter the digital age of news delivery, and developed a presence in television. This broadened the delivery channels, and placed the NYT in the top ten of Internet news sites (Businessweek, 2005). Sulzberger also added new sections, along with a profusion of color illustrations. Additionally, at the same time, Sulzberger made the Times the only metro newspaper in the US to broaden distribution beyond the confines of its home city, and distribute the product over the entire country. In cultural observations, Businessweek (2005) noted Sulzberger’s pride in the journalistic legacy of the NYT. Businessweek (2005) describes his demeanor as a “ wisecracking, live-wire”, with “ vitality more typical of a founding entrepreneur than of an heir” (para. 3). In summary, many strengths and innovations exist at the NYT newspaper establishment, and with some minor adjustments, growth and profit margin will increase.
With the advent of free online content, subscription to the NYT newspaper does not fit well with trending digital content. Additional challenges arose due to the public announcement of a young NYT reporter by the name of Jayson Blair and his Executive Editor, Howell Raines, who were both fired after being exposed for submitting dozens of fabricated stories. The Blair situation compounded with the erroneous reporting of Weapons of Mass Destruction eroded confidence in the NYT’s highly regarded reputation of ethical and accurate journalism. Additional challenges, according to Businessweek (2005) for the NYT, were the “ profound changes communications technology and in the U. S. political climate” (para. 3). Public lack of confidence aside, Sulzberger’s recently appointed CEO, Janet Robinson, were staying the course of their long-term plan which was “ enhancing the content of the Times and extending its reach into virgin territories west of the Hudson which also building its multimedia capacity” (Businessweek, 2012, para. 6). This direction was consistent with a plan set nearly a decade before, one in which his forebears have done, which was to sink money into it in a belief that high-quality journalism will eventually pay off. Summarized, exposed journalistic credibility, changes in political and communications environments, and staying the course of a possible outdated 10-year-old strategy; the NYT had its share of challenges for growth.
Growth opportunities for the NYT as a traditional newspaper are limited, however, with the advent of mobile devices, and public desire for constant news and local update, the NYT can expand its market. The first step is by capturing those local metropolitan customers who are willing to pay for accurate and local journalism, delivered in a digital format. Next, delivering the same digital content to the broader national market that is looking for excellence in journalism versus mainstream media (MSM). Bakkar (2012) lists opportunities for generating revenues for online content publication; subscription and single copy sales, advertising and e-commerce such as banner ads, pop-ups, sale of products, and pre-roll video ads. Bakkar (2012) lists additional methods, although not primarily intended for commercial news sites, a less traditional method, which is “ sponsoring, donations, and non-profit public funding” (p. 628).
Downie and Schudson (2010, p. 56) state: “ Financial support for reporting now comes not only from advertisers and subscribers but also from foundations, individual philanthropists, academic and government budgets, special interests, and voluntary contributions from readers and viewers” could be an additional revenue stream (as cited by Bakkar, 2012, p. 628). Bakkar (2012) argues that digital news operations compete for their audience attention while also competing for advertising revenues, and most digital content news organizations do not have the ability to rely on subscriptions as the main source of revenue. Institutions that are specialized, such as financial news providers, have a greater ability to gain subscription revenue, which is where sections of the NYT may be somewhat classified. Bakkar (2012) states that “ operations that are able to ask users for (high) subscription prices can usually also ask advertisers for higher advertising rates as they provide access to a specific, usually affluent, audience” (p. 628). These opportunities fit within the possible strategies that the NYT can adopt, in varying form and price ranges both to advertisers and consumers.
Threats for the NYT exist in the challenge to sway public, as well as their existing traditional newspaper subscribers away from the prolific free news content. Consumers are continually bombarded with content from multi-media giants who are churning out non-researched, non-credible stories that tend to appeal to the masses (Bakkar, 2012). Other nationally based newspapers can also simply convert their content, and most do, to digital format, and the typical consumer will accept this as credible journalism. The fee-based subscription model faces challenges, as well as a threat from the free providers of news. Hsiang (2005) argues, “ little evidence suggests users are ready to pay for online news at this moment” (p. 131). Hsiang (2005) conducted a random study of 835 homes in Hong Kong, and found “ very few users actually responded to paid content and most had no intent to pay in the future” (p. 131). The economical downturn in the mid-2000’s has quickly eroded consumer’s willingness to accept the fee-based model, and few large news entities have been able to survive based on this method alone (Hsiang, 2005). Threats to this model consist of current digital outlets on both free and fee-based models, as well as consumer’s apparent unwillingness to pay for news that may appear credible.
The New York Times online
Today’s New York Times is easily accessible online at www. nytimes. com, with full, no-charge access to all pages and articles (NYTimes. com, 2014). The front page begins with a splash advertisement, followed by the same articles found on the daily front page of the paper in printed format. There is also a section within the home page that allows visual access to the front page in printed format so online viewers can capture what the front page of the
New York Times looks like for that day. Non-subscriber users will see banner and sidebar advertising within the content pages. The header includes a hyperlinked button for subscribing to the paper in electronic format for tablet and all-digital format. Subscription rates vary from a discounted $1. 50 per week for students, up to the standard $5. 00 per week for all-inclusive access. There is a premium access account that is $8. 75 per week, which adds the NYTimes Now smart phone or tablet application (NYTimes. com, 2014).
The New York Times faces challenges as a traditional newspaper, and digital content provider. By implementing a thorough situational analysis, including a SWOT analysis, they will overcome these challenges and threats. The NYT has a strong and storied reputation as a Pulitzer Prize winning institution, and with the proper mix of product (credible news), professional journalism, and pricing models to fit specific consumers, they are certain to be successful.
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