Just over a year ago, The New York Times launched a grand experiment called NYT Now. The iPhone app was part of a major push to make the paper's digital offerings more than just an online home for articles that appeared in the print edition. But now, the Times is rebooting that experiment, with an update to the app called NYT Now 2.0.
Instead of trying to recreate the print edition on the web, NYT Now is designed to make the Times' journalism appealing and accessible to people who'd never even consider picking up a paper at the newsstand. In the process of making the Times friendly for the internet of today, the company hoped to generate new subscriptions. A low-cost subscription, priced at $7.99 per month, was made to bring the social media generation into the fold.
NYT Now is essentially a highly curated Twitter feed full of good journalism
That's changing today. The subscription model is being tossed to the curb, and NYT Now is going free. A representative from the Times says that the subscription numbers simply weren't there: "We have seen very high engagement and retention among our NYT Now users, [but] we have not seen the number of subscriptions we were hoping for." She added that the app "provided great insight into ... our goal of reaching a wider and younger audience." It's been reported that the paper secured just 20,000 or so NYT Now subscriptions, and a representative has confirmed that "the majority" of the app's core users had full New York Times subscriptions.
Other than the change to an ad-based model, the core of the app remains the same, and that's a good thing. NYT Now is essentially a highly curated Twitter feed, with witty commentary from Times editors. Select articles from the paper make it into the app, and are presented with not just a headline and a photo, but also a couple of bullet points of key facts and a custom sub-headline. In addition to choosing and commentating on stories that get posted to the app, NYT Now's editors highlight stories from around the web.
Updated free app will have fewer Times articles than before
There are some other changes though. While The Verge is told that staffing for NYT Now will not change with the switch to a subscription-free model, the number of Times stories that make it into the app will decrease. There will be roughly 10 stories from the paper in the app at any one time, down from a maximum of 25 stories in the original app. Even with the change, the app offers quite a bit for free users: unlike the full website, there will be no monthly cap on the number of articles you can read in NYT Now. That means that you could read well over a hundred Times articles a month through the app without a subscription, whereas the highly publicized nytimes.com paywall limits you to ten every month. Full digital subscriptions cost between $15 and $35 per month.
Version 2.0 also brings a few minor tweaks to the app itself. The separate tabs for Times articles and stories from around the web have been scrapped — all articles now appear in the main stream. The app also has a darker theme, and a prominent bar at the top of the screen lets you know how many new stories have been added since the last time you checked the feed.
Unfortunately, NYT Now remains an iPhone-only app. According to a Times spokesperson, an Android version "is not off the table, but we're devoting our resources to making the iOS experience the best it can be." You can download the new version now over at the App Store.