The New York Times Co.’s
online unit is quietly taking steps to better monetize its user base, with new requirements for users and a new tool designed to encourage them to cede more personal information.
The company’s NYTimes.com site now requires consumers who sign up to access the site to give more user information than previously. In addition to e-mail address, gender, zip code and country, the site now asks for: users’ year of birth; job function, title and industry; whether they read or subscribe to the paper’s print edition; and income, which had been optional under the previous setup.
The design also offers registrants the ability to opt-into e-mail newsletters and mailing lists from NYTimes.com’s advertisers.
Launched in mid-December, NYTimes.com’s reconfigured interface is designed to capture more information on consumers, for use in segmenting the site’s audience.
“Advertising on NYTimes.com is targeted, in aggregate, to the users to whom the campaigns are most pertinent,” said spokesperson Christine Mohan. “By requesting more detailed demographic and preference information from our users, NYTimes.com can offer more effective targeting capabilities for our advertisers. The new design also allows us to introduce and promote other product offerings — breaking news alerts, Today’s Headlines e-mail.”
She also added that NYTimes.com would be using the subscriber information to gauge interest in new paid products.
Next month, the company also plans to unveil what it’s calling its Member Center, a site where, Mohan said, “users can manage all aspects of their relationship with NYTimes.com.”
The site will let users update their registration information — ostensibly keeping it current. It will also contain an area for consumers to manage their newsletter and e-mail; a payment center for access to and management of paid content; and better help features.
Since users are expected to visit the site regularly — for instance, when they sign up for a new e-mail newsletter or need to contact customer service — the Member Center also is designed for to promote future NYTimes.com products, Mohan said.
The push to better leverage visitors’ data comes amid a yearlong effort by the company to boost revenues from its online channel, which, like many Web publishers, is seeing slipping revenue as ad spending continues to be soft.
Revenues for New York Times Digital were down for each of the first three quarters of 2001, with each quarter’s performance coming in about ten percent lower than a year earlier. Cost-cutting and burgeoning classified ad sales buoyed the unit, to an extent, contributing to its first operating profit during third quarter.
Throughout 2001, the company took part in several efforts designed to beef up its attractiveness to advertisers. As a member of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and a charter member of the Online Publishers Association, NYTD was among the first sites to embrace larger, more rich-media-friendly advertising formats.
In more recent months, the company began selling campaigns based on unique user sessions — in which a site visitor would see ads from only one advertiser. The sales model was designed to appeal to traditional advertisers, who are used to the relative exclusivity and established metrics of television and media buying.