The New York Times looks to gaming vertical to grow subscriptions

September 29, 2022

By Alexander Lee

The New York Times is leveraging the growing popularity of its gaming vertical to drive subscriptions and create new opportunities for brand partnerships and ad inventory.

The Times has published a daily crossword since 1942, but its use of games as a subscriber funnel is part of a renewed focus on gaming sparked by its acquisition of Wordle in January. Although Wordle is free-to-play, many of the New York Times’ most popular games are premium offerings, requiring users to pay for either a games-specific subscription or a full New York Times editorial subscription before they can access higher levels.

“Our focus this year has been growing that games business, thinking of Wordle as an incredible opportunity to introduce all those people to our games,” said New York Times head of games Jonathan Knight.

The strategy has paid off, according to Knight. “In recent weeks, we’ve definitely seen evidence that, when we ultimately offer people a subscription to games and give them the choice to take the games subscription or take the larger New York Times bundle, people take the bundle,” he said, though he declined to provide specific subscription numbers. “It’s an exciting opportunity to introduce people to everything that the New York Times has to offer, so we’re definitely beginning to see that strategy play out.”

And there is a logical overlap between the audience for the Times’ puzzle games and its editorial content. “The people that are attracted to word games, in general, are a pretty good fit for somebody who wants the more intellectual news coverage,” said Peter Ericson, creator of the digital subscription platform Leaky Paywall.

The significant demographic expansion of its gaming audience due to the Wordle acquisition was a motivator for the Times to more directly leverage its gaming vertical. Knight said that the makeup of the Times’ gaming audience has shifted considerably toward international markets, though he was unable to provide specific demographic figures.

The international expansion of the Times’ gaming audience has gotten a boost from the global success of Wordle — and at least some international users have followed the exact subscription funnel laid out by Knight and his team. Sonia Pham, a New York Times Games user based in London, said she was introduced to the Times’ gaming vertical through Wordle, but now rarely plays the free game, choosing instead to spend most of her gaming time playing Spelling Bee, a premium offering.

“Initially, I just wanted the game subscription. But then I was like, ‘well, how much is the news subscription as well?’ I ended up getting the subscription to news, and only more recently have I started using it as a source of news,” Pham said. “It’s a very expensive way, really, for me to play one game every day. But it’s just one of those things that becomes part of your daily routine; it’s a subscription you set up and forget about.”

As the Times’ gaming audience continues to grow, increased subscription revenue is only one …read more

Source:: Digiday