Why The NYT Seized The Parenting Opportunity

Archives dating back to 1851. Cooking. Crosswords. And now parenting. The New York Times, continuing its efforts to shift away from digital ad revenue to a subscription-based model, will be adding a subscription product for parents to its offerings in the upcoming year.

A parenting category (chosen from 15 other potential products) was not necessarily the obvious pick. The Times does not have a robust archive of parenting-specific content to draw from —unlike the cooking and crossword products which boasted an extensive archive of content.  “We don’t produce a lot of articles right now on [parenting],” Alex MacCallum, the Times’ head of new product and ventures told Digiday of the decision back in May. “We focused more on imagining what’s possible than on what’s happening now.” Ultimately, though, a parenting product met four necessary criteria: market opportunity, potential to build a subscription business, unmet needs, and the Times’ potential advantage in meeting that need.

A brief look at the state of parents’ relationship with media sheds light on the value of a parenting product. Despite the ever-increasing popularity of parenting blogs, YouTube channels, and open dialogue about the logistical and emotional realities of parenthood, major publications largely overlook parenting as a newsworthy and culturally relevant topic. Indeed, the New York Times will be the first of the ten highest-circulation publications (with the notable exception of a Washington Post newsletter) to dedicate a separate section to parents. Online media, by contrast, has proved itself a leader in providing parenting content: both CNN and Huffington Post dedicate specific verticals to parenthood.  Moreover, as MacCallum acknowledged in an interview with Poynter, the average age of parents – less than the age of the average subscriber—presents obvious subscription expansion opportunity. The Times’ research also suggests that existing readers sought out their parenting content elsewhere and wanted to the publication to address the topic.

As for an advantage in meeting the need? Despite the admitted lack of explicitly parenting-related content, the new parenting team will be able to draw from a variety of areas that inform the parenthood experience. “Parenting is a space that involves many areas that the Times covers so well,” MacCallum said in a press release. “From science to relationships to education. From our early research, parents are looking for trust and authority, qualities The Times can provide.”
While the official subscription product has not yet launched, The Times has added a parenting vertical to its website with parenting-relevant content, including academic studies on family dynamics, personal essays on parenting experiences and relationships, and the influence of parents within the industries in which they work.

The parenting team, comprised entirely of parents, comes from a variety of media backgrounds from news to tech to design. Lead Editor Jessica Grose (former Editor in Chief of Lenny Letter) will be joined by Product Lead Younga Park (former Chief Operating Officer at Tinybop), New Products and Ventures Executive Creative Director Barbara deWilde, Senior Director of Engineering David Yee, and New Products Program Management Director Vhanya Mackechnie.
And the next step for this new team? Looking for what content parents want to consume and how they want that content delivered. The challenge? Reaching parents at every stage of the life-long parenting process.


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