First Look: The New York Times delivers less in order to get new digital readers with NYTNow

The New York Times launched its new iPhone news app, NYTNow, along with a new premium subscription plan yesterday as previously announced. Avoiding April Fool’s Day, the Times rolled out the new app for Apple’s iPhone only with still no word if an Android version will be coming soon (my bet is that it will).

NYT-iPhone5-intro-lgNYTNow is a slimmed down news app, offering “top stories” from the NYT, article summaries and a morning briefing, meant to get readers quickly caught up on the news. One might call it a gateway app to higher priced services, costing readers $7.99 per month to subscribe. Readers already subscribing to other subscription levels can access the new app as part of their subscription benefits.

Also going live yesterday was the NYT’s new Times Premier premium subscription service. At a cost of $45 every four weeks, the program is – as its name suggests – the top of the line subscription level giving readers access to all digital platforms and apps. Print subscribers will need to pay an addition $10 every four weeks to also receive Times Premier.

Times Premier also will come with some new features: TimesTalk, access to new and archived full-length online videos of Times journalists interviewing leading figures in the arts, politics and fashion; TBooks, access to two free single subject eBooks per month; Crosswords, four themed puzzles each month; family access for two additional family members; gift subscriptions for friends and family; and access to The New York Times Store Premier Boutique. Times Premier is, in essence, the platinum versus of AmEx for those who need such status recognition.

NYT-iPhone5-limit-lg

NYTNow is a nicely designed news app that delivers what it promises. Some other newspapers might want to consider its design as a new way to do their own news apps. So many newspaper news apps are simply look-a-like news readers, sold by vendors who go from newspaper to newspaper selling the same app, often giving it away free to the newspaper in order to build their own ad networks using the content of their newspaper partners as the bait.

“The launch of NYT Now marks a significant point in Times history as it is the first mobile product with its own dedicated editorial staff that offers a particular selection of Times stories,” Jill Abramson, executive editor, the NYT said. “NYT Now cuts through the vast amount of content available on the web and social media to provide the most essential stories of the moment, hand-selected by some of the most thoughtful and discerning journalists in our newsroom.”

But the NYT more and more reminds one of a goldfish in a small bowl. The bowl is their world, and while a bigger world of digital media and advertising may lie just outside it, to the fish the outside world looks like instant death. So the NYT has chopped up its existing news product into both a smaller chuck and priced it somewhat lower than its other offerings. It feels a bit like the GM strategy of the ’70s: if one product works a bit under one brand name, why not create the same product under another. NYTNow is the paper’s Chevy app, sold along side its Cadillac and Buick apps. Is that too cynical a conclusion? I suppose we should see if the NYT makes other moves this year beyond these before completely dismissing NYTNow as simply more of the same.

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