The news that The New York Times will soon be publishing its entire content on Flipboard seems to signal a decisive change in the way in which traditional press and media companies engage with their audiences. From this Thursday, the entire content of the NYT will be available to subscribers, whilst non-subscribers will be able to read a limited amount of articles found in the paper’s Top News section.
The partnership with Flipboard is quite a departure from the Times's previous stance on its digital content. In the past it was necessary to have a subscription to see more than 10 NYT articles, and its digital version could only be viewed via the paper’s apps and website or by reading excerpts quoted by third parties. Explaining why a company that had previously guarded its digital content so jealously has made such a bold move, Denise F. Warren, general manager of The New York Times’s website points out that in a survey of the paper’s subscribers 20 percent of those asked used third-party aggregation apps like Flipboard. The deal still leaves the paywall system in place, but leading figures at the paper hope that allowing partial access to certain articles will encourage many who have not subscribed already to do so.
The deal is the first time that the magazine-format app Flipboard has been able to persuade such a large publisher to allow it access to content that is normally kept hidden behind “premium” pay walls. Usually the app allows users to sample selected content from the publications that have enabled readers to view their content using Flipboard, including ABC News, Lonely Planet and Washington Post Magazine.
With The New York Times set to sell full-screen advertisements through Flipboard, advertising revenue is thought to be a key to the deal, though details of how it is to be split between the two companies has yet to be released. And yet, just as the NYT announces its bold new venture, Wired and The New Yorker revealed that they would be limiting their involvement with the app, barely 12 months after they and other Condé Nast publications began selling ads in Flipboard feeds. Rather than taking adavantage of Flipboard’s ability to format online content into attractive magazine layouts, both titles will stop displaying entire articles in favour of a URL that will lead readers directly to the magazines’ websites. Wired and The New Yorker struggled to sell advertising through Flipboard, and there remains within the magazine industry a sense of unease at the idea of encouraging readers to read content without engaging with the publication itself, either by buying the magazine, visiting its website or downloading its app.
Only time will tell how rewarding the venture will be for The New York Times, but the decision of such a respected newspaper to experiment with evolving forms of digital media seems, at this point in time, to be a bold step in the right direction.