Anti-Marketing Strategy at the New York Times

The New York Times website is the most confounding thing. It is bad enough that it blocks you from reading more than 10 articles a month without subscribing. But now it is impossible to cut and paste quotes from its articles to use in tweets and Facebook posts. These changes undermine any hope of maximizing eyeballs on its content. And that fundamentally undermines its ability to command top dollar for advertising.

Let’s break it down. Social media drives so much traffic to news media websites that any decision to limit that prevents the maximization of profitability. Sure, news media like the NY Times feel the need to beef up subscription revenue in the face of declining ad revenue. But does it really make sense to to this in a way that further erodes the value of its ad revenue?

I understand that the short term growth in subscription revenue has its appeal, but is it really sustainable? I suggest that it will peak, leaving the only growth opportunity to increasing eyeballs, which, as I indicated above, is being undermined.

By limiting reader access to its content, the NY Times is making it less worthwhile to get stories placed in the paper. Sure, it is still a great press hit, but it could be much better.

As for the disabling of cut and paste… that makes it more difficult for people to share the articles using the quote they found most compelling. That means most of the shares will simply repeat the title with the link. Titles are nice, but they do not generally serve the interests of the person sharing the article.

As an activist and an organizer, I want to pull from the article the quote that drives home my message, not the title which drives home the editor’s message. Sure, I can write my own message to replace the title, but most people will not do this. Eliminating the short cut afforded by cut and paste reduces the motivation to share the article.

If news media want to thrive in the social media age, they need to embrace social in a way that leverages it for revenue. But instead, outlets like the NY Times are trying to hold on to old ways of generating revenue in spite of social media. This is a strategy that is guaranteed to have declining returns over time.