HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Open-mic journalism: How The Arizona Republic found success with storytelling events
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Nov. 25, 2008, 12:34 p.m.

NYT’s 10K subscribers on Kindle: The start of something bigger?

One other important note from that internal New York Times memo my colleague Zach got a hold of: The company reports it has “more than 10,000 paid subscribers” to an electronic edition of the newspaper on Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader. To my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong), that’s the first time a major newspaper has released numbers on how it’s doing on Kindle — a platform lots of newspaper execs are eager to see turn into a saving grace for their industry.

Given that the electronic Times costs $13.99 a month, that would mean the NYT Kindle edition is generating in the neighborhood of $1.68 million a year. How much of that goes to NYT Co. and how much stays with Amazon is unclear.

Amazon has been tightlipped about how many of the devices it has sold, which has led some (including me) to think it might be a smaller success than some had hoped. (TechCrunch claimed in August it knew the number: 240,000.) If we do some highly crude back-of-the-envelope calculation, that would mean The New York Times has a penetration rate on the Kindle of around four percent.

Not bad, considering the Kindle is the first incarnation of that dreamy aspirational future of newspapers: no physical distribution costs, plus a steady revenue stream that comes from news consumers, not advertisers.

This also provides some guidance in how other newspapers might be doing on the Kindle. Amazon publishes rankings of its newspapers’ sales: The NYT comes in second behind The Wall Street Journal, but ahead of the papers you might imagine (The Washington Post, Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune). Amazon’s sales-ranking systems are famously inscrutable — just ask any author who tries to track how his book fares hour to hour — but I’d guess the Journal is generating Kindle revenue numbers similar to the Times’, since they sell their edition for only $9.99 but have more subscribers. My suspicion is that there’s a pretty steep dropoff in Kindle sales numbers after the NYT, then a much steeper one after the FT — I’d be curious to see numbers from a major metro like The Boston Globe or The Denver Post. The early-adopter crowd that is currently buying Kindles is, I suspect, more interested in a national news product than their local daily.

I’ve been at a number of conferences recently where newspaper people point to the Kindle (or at least Kindle-like devices) as a major source of industry salvation — arguing that the Kindle will have an adoption slope similar to the iPod’s, and that they’ll soon be seen in every park and subway around America. And since Kindle users pay money for content, there may be a business model for newspapers after all.

I’m not yet sold on that vision. I think for the Kindle to reach mainstream success, it’ll have to shift its focus from being an ebook reader with a junky mobile web browser to being a great mobile web browser with an ebook reader attached. It’ll have to become something more like the iPhone with a bigger screen and better battery life. (There are signs the iPhone might already have the ebook-reader lead over the Kindle, although without the business model attached.)

And when that shift happens, it’ll become trivially easy to read newspapers’ (free) web sites on the device — which I suspect will undercut Kindle newspaper subscriptions just as it undercuts print newspaper subscriptions. But the NYT’s numbers are among the first public signs that people — at least some people — are willing to pay to get news in the electronic format of their choice, even when they can get it on the web or their phone for free.

POSTED     Nov. 25, 2008, 12:34 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Open-mic journalism: How The Arizona Republic found success with storytelling events
The four-year-old program has helped boost the newspaper’s events business and helped strengthen relationships with the community through nights of storytelling.
Newsonomics: Buying Yelp — and making it the next core of the local news and information business
The pricetag would be high, but it might be worth it to reassemble one part of the old newspaper bundle — tying together local news and local services.
Crossing the streams: Why competing publications are deciding to team up on podcasts
Low financial risk and a desire for word-of-mouth sharing have led news sites to collaborate, sharing audience and infrastructure.
What to read next
953
tweets
The State of the News Media 2015: Newspapers ↓, smartphones ↑
The annual omnibus report from Pew outlines a story of continued trends more than radical change.
561The Upshot uses geolocation to push readers deeper into data
The New York Times story changes its text depending on where you’re reading it: “It’s a fine line between a smarter default and being creepy.”
422Knight Foundation invests $1 million in creator-driven podcast collective Radiotopia
The money will help PRX’s collective of public media-minded shows develop sustainable business models and expand with new shows and producers.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
NPR
Forbes
The Daily Voice
Kickstarter
Topix
Daily Kos
The New Yorker
MediaNews Group
The Boston Globe
The Orange County Register
OpenFile
Outside.in