January 6, 2015 Last Updated 7:15 am

NYT editor says NYT Now mobile app has not proved a success, but NYT Cooking app a winner

Marriage of web and mobile app proving a success for the new food brand from the Times, as editor says he is working with ad side to find new sales opportunities

The executive editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, has revealed in a staff memo that its NYT Now app, released in April, has not proved to be a success. NYT Cooking, on the other hand, has been downloaded more than 300,000 times.

NYT-iPhone5-limit-lg“We learned many significant lessons from building NYT Now,” Baquet wrote in his memo, which has been posted in full by Fishbowl NY. “We realized we could be more visual, and talk to readers in a different, less formal way, and still be The New York Times. We are exploring how we can make NYT Now a financial success. But in the meantime, we are taking the best features of NYT Now and blending them into the core app.”

NYT Cooking, though, has attracted 8 million readers on the web and has been downloaded more than 300,000 times. This combination of web and app most likely is the key to the new brand’s success. Also, the brand is not directly competing with other ways to access the same content from the same newspaper. NYT Now, while a lower priced news app, would be an after thought to most loyal NYT readers who are likely already paying for a news app from the company.

Banquet’s memo, in my opinion, takes a stab at the business side of the newspaper, stating that it will be the newsroom that will be called on to secure the future of the paper. Any publisher or ad director would take offense at such talk, but it appears normal at the Times.

“Once again, the newsroom is being called on to take a leading role in securing our future. In fact, our business side colleagues, as they did a generation ago, are counting on us to help lead,” Banquet said. It is likely that paid content advocates, and many journalism writers would think this a perfectly ordinary thing to say (I don’t, but then I have never worked at the NYT).

The executive editor also said he is working with the ad department on new ad real estate.

“Finally, I’m working with the business side to see if there are steps we can take to attract more ads without compromising the line between news and advertising,” Banquet wrote. “For instance, can an advertiser sponsor a regular feature? Yes, so long as it does not make readers question our objectivity. This is tricky territory, but some of the best news organizations in the world have already navigated it.”

What Banquet is describing is simply single sponsor opportunities. The NYT actually has already used single sponsor selling when launching some of its apps, and there is no reason to believe it can’t work if implemented more widely. This type of selling is also very familiar to those who have sold radio time, so staffers should know the features and benefits the advertiser can expect.

The staff memo comes at a good time: it is the New Year, and just three weeks ago more than 100 newsroom positions were eliminated. Banquet says he can’t promise more job losses, but he says the paper remains profitable.

“I understand that this is a moment filled with a certain amount of worry. But there is also enormous opportunity. Just remember we have nearly two million paying readers, a thriving print newspaper, and a rapidly growing digital business that brings in many times more revenue than most of our flashy new competitors. We remain a highly profitable institution,” Banquet said.

  • Slip 2 years ago

    Well, considering the NYT Cooking app is now broken since the recent update that was ‘fix bug’ it doesn’t seem like the NYT is quite ready to provide excellence in the digital realm. Seriously, what publishing company would put out an update of a popular app without properly testing it? Now it is useless, as are all of the collected recipes the many users have spent time organizing.