The Grey Lady Builds the Brand

All the news that's fit to print. Oh, and daily deals. And continuing education courses... The Times, it is a-changin'.

You may have heard something about the death of print. And The New York Times—the granddaddy of all dead-tree publications—is not exempt. Expenses are rising, Frank Rich is leaving, a paywall looms. Faced with the need to make more money, the the Times is venturing into what initially seems like un-Timesian territory: the Grey Lady is getting into the Groupon-like daily deals business, and has also been working with universities to promote New York Times online courses.

The online courses have been in the works for a while; according to an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, this is now the Times's third year of such courses. But the venture has been evolving of late; this past fall, courses were created and taught by members of the newsroom. Felice Nudelman, executive director of education for the New York Times Company, said that recently the Times has partnered with universities, including Ball State. "We found an even larger audience for the courses when we did things like co-brand and partner with Ball State in an 'emerging media' certificate," she told the Chronicle's Josh Fischman in a podcast. There was a demand for courses taught both by university professors and professional journalists, and with the co-branding, the course "took off."

An even more intriguing maneuver is the Times's wading into the daily deals space. Other papers with less firmly established brands have decided to partner with Groupon or Living Social (Tribune, McClatchy, Media General—these all went with Andrew Mason's venture). But, says NYT's chief advertising officer Denise Warren in an interview with paidContent, "We looked at partner options when we began looking at the space a few months ago. But we realized that we have the assets, the consumer reach and the relationships with the advertisers to do this on our own."

Kristin Mason, a spokesperson for the Times, tells Fast Company that the deals offered by TimesLimited will be "more curated" than what's available on Groupon, with an emphasis on exclusive offers rather than volume-based ones. TimesLimited is currently in the list-building phase, and will start offering deals this month.

Mason says that while "we're certainly trying to build the brand" at the Times, this isn't a huge leap for the company—the daily deals business is a natural spin-off from its existing advertising business. Plus, the Times has already tried similar, special-offer advertising programs, like Great Getaways and the NYT Wine Club. A full look at the range of offerings can be seen at the New York Times Store site.

So while the Times might be expanding the brand with these new ventures, it's not straying far from familiar territory. When I ask if the Grey Lady might be opening a themed, black-and-white restaurant in Times Square any time soon, Mason laughed and said no. Ultimately, college courses are a natural extension of the Times's information-peddling, and daily deals are a natural extension of its advertising. Despite the Groupon-style and e-learning ventures, the new Grey Lady still looks a good deal like the old.

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