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Jennifer 8. Lee Tweets Times' Strategy Meeting

If it isn't a sign of, well, the times that a New York Times reporter, Jennifer 8. Lee, tweeted a newsroom meeting on what the paper is doing to save itself, I don't know what is. But the results, some of which I've put in the screen grab at right, tell the tale of a company throwing just about everything at the wall to see what might stick. Some highlights:

  • The Times is mulling an AmEx-card style paid model with different levels of membership.
  • It's looking at a new revenue stream, which is selling research to Fortune 1000 companies.
  • Because 2.5 times more Times content is read off the site than on, the company thinks it will make a lot of money off APIs.
  • The Times may drop the idea that those who subscribe to the print product get everything for free.
  • Company brass believes TimesSelect was mis-marketed, leading some readers to think that the whole site was paid. Traffic surged inordinately once the experiment ended.
As much as I'd like to think that Times management is being straight with its employees, some of this doesn't read quite right, particularly assertions that brand advertising is alive and well at nytimes.com. I'm not going to tell you it's dead ... that's not right either -- but when the person identified as the "NYT.com GM" says that the Web site "significantly" outperformed competitors in display last year, my eyebrows raise just a bit. In fact, the company's Internet ad revenues decreased by 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, which makes this statement another example of the dynamic called flat is the new up. (Or in this case, slightly down is the new outperform.)

However, reading the 140-character-per tea leaves of the meeting indicates that the company is looking well beyond advertising for additional revenue, and that's an extremely positive step. And while some of it, such as moving to an online subscription model, is fraught with peril, other ideas, such as selling research to major corporations, is not. Too often as we've watched the decline of the newspaper business, the people in charge of the newspapers have been treated as dunderheads. This is a reminder that many of them are not.

Here's a link to my BNET Media colleague David Weir's strong opinions on the Times' strategy.

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