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New York Times iPhone app racks up 14.9M downloads

One year after rolling out its digital subscriptions, The New York Times reported that its iPhone application has been downloaded 14.9 million times as the publisher looks to build its strategy for 2012.

Additionally, The New York Times iPad app has generated 3.6 million downloads. The mobile app numbers represent downloads through February and show how the publisher has built a digital strategy around giving subscribers unlimited access to digital content via mobile.

?Mobile is an important part of our digital strategy, and we continue to work to grow our mobile businesses,? said Linda Zebian, manager of corporate communications at the New York Times, New York.

?The Times continues to develop mobile and digital products exclusively for subscribers,? she said.

The New York Times is one of the largest daily newspapers nationwide, after The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Mobile publisher
Beginning in April, the pay wall on the New York Times Web site will cut off non-subscribers with ten free articles per month. Previously, readers who were not subscribers could access 20 articles per month.

Mobile users who are not subscribers will continue to only have access to the top news stories.

The goal behind the new pay wall is obviously to get consumers to pay for content, which is easier said than done.

?Free is not as free as people think,? said Carl Howe, vice president of consumer research at Yankee Group, Boston.

?The key is finding the balance between payment and freedom to access content for publishers,? he said.

The new guidelines to the New York Times pay wall also has implications for how users search and look for content.

If accessed via social media or email, social media or blogs, users will be able to read an article for free regardless if they are a subscriber or not.

However, when found via organic search, the article will be counted towards a user?s monthly articles.

This means that for mobile publishers who share content from The New York Times, there are challenges with determining if a user can access the content. 

Content is king
The New York Times news points to the larger digital publishing trend of asking consumers to pay for content.

With a smaller number of allotted articles a month, non-subscribers will be more pressured to pay for a subscription.

Digital media has vastly changed the publishing industry and has forced many newspapers including the New York Times to flip their monetization tactics.

As publishers have changed the ways that content is distributed, consumers are also slowly beginning to change the way that they consume content.

For example, a recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 45 percent of smartphone owners get their news from their devices, showing publishers need to nail down a mobile strategy (see story).

?Mobile is the way that a lot of news is consumed these days, in some cases more than desktop,? Mr. Howe said. 

?Overall, all major publications are moving to a model where they want to get paid for their content,? he said.

?Slowly but surely, publishing is moving away from the notion that all content is free.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York