Insights from A. Weisenbach at
The New York Times

A Successful Pivot to a Subscription-Based Model at Scale

Tune in to: Time for A Reset

Marketing plays a crucial role in driving growth and building brand experiences, and it’s an essential component of any successful business strategy. It plays a critical role in scaling a company and building the topline. Amy Weisenbach, SVP and Head of Marketing at The New York Times was recently on the Time for a Reset podcast with host Paul Frampton. The conversation cut across multiple marketing touchpoints, including the evolution of The Times’s essential subscription bundle strategy, an exploration of The New York Times’s newest brand campaign, “More of Life Brought to Life”,  the role of marketing in driving business growth and building brand value, and marketing strategies in a headwind environment. Amy also touched on how she leads a marketing culture focused on collaboration, creativity, and creating value. She also spoke about the hot topic of marketing’s role in ensuring identity and data privacy and offered valuable advice for young marketing professionals. 

The New York Times is a 171-year-old revered and respected global news brand. With over 9.7 million subscribers worldwide, Amy is leading the marketing and brand-building efforts at the Times as the company works towards its goal of acquiring 15 million subscribers by 2027. Listen to the podcast to learn more about how this legacy brand has expanded beyond its core offerings. 

Here are some marketing insights shared by Amy:

Marketing is About Building Relationships

Marketing is more than just promoting products or services; it’s also about connecting with customers and building a brand people trust. One of the most critical aspects of marketing is driving consideration and demand for your brand. Amy explains that businesses must create a strong brand identity that resonates with their target audience. 

Amy explains how brand building at The Times happens across the customer journey. The top-of-the-funnel strategies focus on building brand impact and delivering short-term results, while the bottom-of-funnel conversion strategies also build brand value. The New York Times launched its digital product in 2011 and, by 2015, it had proved its product-market fit and the ability to scale at pace, which led to the pivot to a subscription-first model.  

Every Touchpoint is an Opportunity to Build or Erode Your Brand

Amy believes marketers are essential in driving growth and business outcomes while building customer brand experiences. Her team is guided by a shared philosophy that brand and performance don’t have to be tradeoffs. While the goals may differ at the top of the funnel from goals at the bottom of the funnel, seeing them all as opportunities to build brand equity is critical. Amy’s team has proven that even performance marketing can drive brand value. 

Marketing Strategies in a Headwind Business Environment

Amy mentions that economic headwinds are forcing brands to adopt a more agile marketing framework where the focus is on the ROI of marketing dollars. She draws lessons from The Times’s journey toward a subscription-first model and highlights that decisions must be data-driven. While brands shouldn’t be afraid of taking risks, they must adopt a test-and-verify culture that measures marketing outcomes and allows the brand to pivot if a marketing strategy is not producing the desired results.

Data is at the Heart of Successful Marketing

By providing a valuable product (in The Times’s case, quality journalism), businesses can attract potential customers. Data can inform how marketers reach their customers and deliver high-quality product experiences. Amy suggests companies should focus on providing exceptional customer experiences and creating more opportunities for customers to engage with your brand’s product, more often.  

This can include personalised communication, timely responses, and going above and beyond to meet customer needs. Amy also emphasises the importance of data in marketing. She believes that data-driven marketing is essential for driving business growth as it allows marketers to make informed decisions and measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

 Managing the Intersection of Marketing, Technology, Identity, and Privacy

Amy explains how everyone in the industry is closely watching these issues, more so when the marketing effort is focused on capturing demand by leveraging performance and growth levers. She mentions that The Times strictly follows a privacy-friendly policy to protect its scaled base of first-party data of a high-quality audience. 

Amy reflects on navigating the evolving landscape of data privacy and the ever-shifting timeline of when existing identifiers, like cookies, are really going to go away. This uncertainty makes it difficult for marketing teams to plan, unsure of how much to invest into testing cookieless solutions or how fast to evolve their existing practices. While privacy-forward changes are ultimately good for customers (and even for advertising platforms that are built on first-party data, like The Times’s), evolving one’s performance marketing programs in the face of this uncertainty can be daunting for marketing teams.

A Successful Pivot to Digital Subscription

The New York Times’s mission is to become “The essential subscription for every curious, English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world.” Research at The Times shows that, globally, there are at least 135 million adults who are paying or are willing to pay for one or more subscriptions to English-language news, opinion, and journalism destinations that cover their passion areas, such as sports, puzzles, recipes, expert shopping advice, and podcasts. Of this 135 million, The Times is focused on a subset of curious readers and lifelong learners with a common characteristic of independent thinking, civic engagement, and interest in other cultures, perspectives, and experiences.

Amy is successfully leading marketing at The Times to support its subscription-first strategy. Internally, she drives a digital marketing culture across the enterprise while externally connecting with relevant audiences and helping readers develop a relationship with the brand with the goal of driving many more people to subscribe. In her six years at The Times, the digital subscriber base has grown nearly four-fold from 2.6 to over 9 million. The exciting journey towards a goal of 15 million subscribers continues. 

Successful Marketing requires a Well-Defined Internal and External Strategy

Paul Frampton, the show host, picks up on Amy’s point on internal transformation and adds that the big job of the CMO at organisations is to market the value of marketing both to the board and the external customer. When marketing is done best, it interweaves understanding the value proposition internally with the external strategy of driving growth.

More About Amy Weisenbach

Amy Weisenbach is the SVP and Head of Marketing at The New York Times. Amy and her team are responsible for all consumer marketing at The Times, including the “The Truth Is” campaign and the most recent “More of Life Brought to Life” campaign. 

Previously Amy led marketing for Wilson Sporting Goods, the world’s leading manufacturer of sports equipment, and she also spent six years as a marketing leader at Unilever. She previously attended Harvard Business School and was voted in the top 50 CMOs in America by Campaign.

More About The Time for a Reset Podcast

Join us at the Time for a Reset Podcast, where we sit down with top business and marketing leaders to uncover the secrets behind driving change in today’s rapidly evolving world. From shifting consumer behaviour to the increasing importance of marketing in driving business growth, this podcast delves into the strategies and insights that are shaping the future of marketing. 

You can read the full transcript episode here

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