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Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Times titles claim boost to subscriber numbers after move away from breaking news online

By Freddy Mayhew

The Times and Sunday Times are undestood to have boosted subscriber numbers since the move to edition-based online news and a fresh.

Press Gazette has been  told that the number of new subscriptions rose by 200 per cent in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period the year before. This figure is understood to be in the thousands, but the title declined to reveal specific figures.

The number of subscribers failing to renew was said to be down 4 per cent over the same period. As of last summer (the last time figures were released) The Times and Sunday Times claimed 413,600 print and digital subscribers.

In March last year the Times switched its digital output from rolling news to three daily online editions – at 9am, midday and 5pm – in response to intensive customer research.

At the same time it launched a new website and phone app that merged content from the Times and Sunday Times.

Chief marketing officer for both titles, Catherine Newman, said the team was starting to see the impact of the changes they implemented following a project with strategic communications consultancy Verbalisation and the Times in-house analytics team in early 2016.

Under the project the publisher looked at three years worth of research to examine the “psychology” of its readers, Newman told Press Gazette.

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“Part of it formed the change to editions because what our readers were saying was I feel like I’m rolling in rolling news and what I need is someone to help me get to what matters to me.”

Another outcome was a greater link-up between the editorial and marketing teams.

Reader feedback shared through the Times call centre is now played in editorial meetings and stories are measured for their impact in driving new subscriptions or engaging existing subscribers.

“It’s been great bridging the gap between marketing and editorial. It’s now in a language we all understand,” said Newman of the changes. “To have a team all having the same understanding and focus on the same targets has been really great.

“Both the Times and Sunday Times have always been really open with us but what we have been able to do with digital edition based strategy is to have a much more solid understanding about what’s driving subscriptions and also importantly  what isn’t.”

She added: “With the Times and Sunday Times they have quite an evolved newsroom anyway. They don’t operate as an island at all. We have pushed on an open door. They have heard what we have to say and the results are there to prove it and we are all keen to learn more.”

Newman said the next steps were to look at expanding into international markets.

“Article 50 gives us a great platform to do that because we are seen to have quite a global view,” she said.

“For us that’s going to be really exciting. We are going to continue to evolve our digital products while continuing to be proud of our newspapers which are outperforming the market.”

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