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New York Times working on digital-only magazine, cheaper 'Need to Know' subscription

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The New York Times hq (1020)
The New York Times hq (1020)

The New York Times is hard at work on a number of new digital-only products that it hopes will complement its main daily offering and help it remain relevant and profitable in the post-PC era. The first is currently going by the name "Need to Know," and it will offer some of the most significant stories as well as a selection of interesting content from the main site in "a convenient, media-rich package" at a lower price than a full digital Times subscription, as announced earlier this year. While little has been revealed, it's possible that Need to Know will focus heavily, if not entirely, on mobile.

"New ways to present our journalism in digital forms."

Beyond this new low-cost offering, the paper is also working on an "immersive digital magazine experience" as executive editor Jill Abramson called it in a memo today obtained by Capital New York. It doesn't yet have a name, but Abramson says it will be a "lean back read" with "new multimedia narratives" and a collection of some of the best writing from the week prior. The digital magazine — which will be entirely distinct from The New York Times Magazine — will focus on creative layouts mixed with multimedia, much like the highly-acclaimed "Snow Fall" feature published earlier this year. Abramson considers the magazine more of a "need to read" alongside Need to Know.

The paper is also working on other paid products each covering topics like politics, technology, opinion, and the arts which will offer "deep access and additional content" over a traditional Times subscription, according to a press release from this spring. Abramson provided some details on one of those products, which will focus on dining. Access to this special dining section will be available separate from a full subscription, and it will be discrete from the traditional Dining & Wine section of the paper.

"The new 'Need to Know' project is aimed for quick and periodic dips into the news."

All of the new products are clearly responses to what the paper thinks readers want from online journalism in 2013. Need to Know is designed around offering shorter, easily-digestible stories as readers need them at a lower cost, and the new digital magazine sounds like a truly made-for-iPad offering.

The New York Times — along with much of traditional media — has worked hard to adjust to the internet age. The parent company has consolidated to focus on its marquee property, and its paywall has been very closely watched across the industry as the paper has worked to replace dwindling digital ad revenues with digital subscriptions. Subscriber growth has slowed, however, and is not expanding at the same pace that ad sales are dropping. New products like Need to Know are an attempt to provide another chance to grab subscribers who balk at the Times' $15 to $35 a month plans. We'll see later this year, when some of these projects are set to launch, if the digital properties can catch on.