In a time where many publishers are looking for ways to increase revenue through consumers, Time Out New York is going in the opposite direction. Today, the brand announced that it would begin distributing its magazine for free in order to increase reader engagement and value to advertisers.
The new distribution model doubles circulation to 305,000 copies, which will cast a much wider net for its ad partners. What’s more, TONY will enhance its suite of integrated marketing packages. Ad rates will increase due to the larger circ size, but effective CPMs will be lowered, according to Justin Etheridge, EVP, Time Out North America.
The distribution model itself will take on an interesting hybrid form. A “trained street team” will pass out issues to New Yorkers every Wednesday afternoon throughout the city. Etheridge says that is the “core component” of the new model. The magazine will also be available at lifestyle locations, like bars, restaurants, gyms and theaters. A paid subscription option will remain intact so subscribers can have guaranteed and predictable access to the magazine by having them sent to their mailboxes. And paid subscribers will also have access to a digital edition. Web content—separate from the magazine—will remain free.
Time Out already tested this strategy for its London brand in 2012, and it increased revenue by 80 percent, and its income growth is still on the rise.
“Taking the magazine free is the next chapter in our audience expansion which last year increased by over 50 percent,” says Etheridge. “We will dramatically increase our reach, create new integrated advertising opportunities and better complement our expanding digital audience in the U.S.”
He adds: “The only change to the freemium edition of Time Out New York magazine is the price; the quality of print and the informative and entertaining editorial coverage of the city’s highlights remain unchanged.”
Another spokesperson for the brand tells Folio that its long-term growth strategy began last year with the hire of editor-in-chief, Terri White. Her vision was to grow the brand by making it a multiplatform media brand.
So far, her strategy seems to be working. TONY has increased digital and mobile traffic by 50 percent and 130 percent YoY, respectively.