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NYT expands TV, podcasts as tools to attract subscribers

BloombergNEW YORK (Bloomberg) — The New York Times plans to expand its roster of television shows and podcasts, retooling popular columns and behind-the-scenes tales of its journalism to help attract subscribers who may have never read an article in the newspaper.

Buoyed by the success of “The Daily,” a hit podcast hosted by Michael Barbaro, Times executives see new storytelling tools as a gateway to audiences who may be coaxed into signing up for the newspaper, executives told advertisers at an event on April 30 in New York. Projects include a podcast for kids and “Caliphate,” an audio series that tells the story of a Times reporter covering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant group.

The licensing fees and ads from TV shows and podcasts will be small at first, and unlikely to approach the revenue the company gets from traditional sources.

But Times executives see them as tools to attract more subscribers, which now total 3.6 million, including customers for its crossword puzzle and cooking product.

That subscriber growth, which has been fueled by the newspaper’s coverage of President Trump and the #MeToo movement, has caused the shares to soar 62 percent in the past year.

As part of its plans, the Times is also looking to create a TV show similar to “The Daily,” Sam Dolnick, the newspaper’s assistant managing editor, said at the event.

The publisher announced a Netflix program based on its popular medical column, “Diagnosis,”’ and is in talks to develop a show based on a recent Times series called “Overlooked,” about famous women and minorities who didn’t get obituaries. A Showtime docuseries that depicts a year in the life of Times reporters was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Sunday Styles column “Modern Love,” a cooking column by Sam Sifton and the Times crossword puzzle could all become TV shows, Dolnick said.

Times executives are now focused on making money from assets they long gave away for free — like having their reporters discuss their work on another media company’s talk show. While many Times reporters still do that, “The Daily” has become the main forum for many of its journalists to talk about the latest developments in Washington.

Over 1 mil. people listen a day

Started in January 2017, “The Daily” remains among the Top 10 podcasts on Apple iTunes and has more than 1 million listeners a day, drawing advertisers like BMW, Budweiser and Google. The podcast has turned Barbaro, who once cried during an interview with a coal miner, into a star. Last fall, he landed a spot on People magazine’s “sexiest men alive” list.

Listeners “form a relationship” with Barbaro and that “brings them into the Times’ ecosystem way more deeply than they ever had before,” Dolnick said.

The Times recently announced a partnership with Anonymous Content — producer of the film “Spotlight” and the TV show “Mr. Robot” — to find ways to exploit its journalism in Hollywood. “The Daily” “opened our eyes” to new possibilities beyond print, Sebastian Tomich, the Times’ global head of advertising, said in an interview.

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