The New York Times Is Developing New Lifestyle Verticals, Including a Movies-and-TV Product

Building on the Success of Cooking App

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CEO Mark Thompson.
CEO Mark Thompson. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The New York Times is working on a new digital product focused on movies and TV, among other new lifestyle verticals, CEO Mark Thompson announced at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference Monday.

"We're working on a product based on our Well blog," Mr. Thompson said Monday at the UBS conference. "We're working on a TV and film product, which ... we'll decide as we go forward whether that's going to be part of, and is going to be embedded inside of, the main Times app and mobile web experience. Or whether they're going to be separate .... "

Mr. Thompson touted the success of the Times' Cooking app as a inspiration for more. A person familiar with the situation said in September that the Cooking app would serve as the model for the development of a new section devoted to movies. A Times spokeswoman declined to comment at the time.

The Times introduced a dedicated Cooking experience in September 2014. While it's had some success -- Mr. Thompson said it brought in 8 million uniques last month -- the company has opted to keep it free for users.

Mr. Thompson also spoke about the company's revenue streams, and the balance between advertising revenue and subscription revenue.

"Digital advertising is going to be a very important revenue stream for us, as far as the eye can see, but we think it's a very useful organizing principle to think of ourselves as a subscription business first, and to try to think of all of the content that we do as being worth paying for," he said.

Mr. Thompson said branded content, a relatively new revenue source for the company, has contributed "a little over $35 million" in revenue to the company's bottom line this year. "I don't see why it couldn't be close to double that next year," he added.

Addressing the industry more broadly, Mr. Thompson said: "It seems to me that the advertising industry is kind of gathering around the idea that digital advertising is a tech issue, at exactly the moment where I think we should be thinking about creativity in digital advertising."

"The moment you start treating your audience as if they're eyeballs or a commodity, I think you've gone wrong," Mr. Thompson said, attributing the rise of ad-blocking partly to consumers' desire to get around low-quality ad experiences.

The Times is "less exposed" than its peers to the financial consequences of widespread adoption of ad-blockers, which could potentially sap publications of digital revenue, Mr. Thompson said. But he called it "disgraceful" that some ad-blocking companies are asking publications to pay to be "white-listed" and made exempt from their ad-blocking technologies.

Mr. Thompson didn't address what's seen as a growing digital rivalry between the Times and The Washington Post, which exceeded the Times in unique visitors in October and pronounced itself the new "paper of record." But he suggested that the company is thinking bigger than ComScore audience metrics.

"We're not desperately interested in the next marginal unique user," Mr. Thompson said. "We don't want to try to get users by doing journalism which is out of character for the brand."

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