The New York Times is getting deeper into the experiential realm.
For a fee starting at $75 and going up depending on the destination, a reader can book a half or full day “city tour” based on travel content from The Times, in particular its popular “36 Hours” columns, which have already been turned into large bound travel guides.
“We’ve seen considerable growth in our subscription base in the last couple of years and a lot of that is being driven by younger readers,” Victoria Hanson, director of Times Journeys, said. “It became really apparent that we should have a travel product for their preferences… and we know we have a huge following with our travel features like ’36 Hours’ so it made a lot of sense to take that and create these city tours.”
With an operating partner in Urban Adventures, a subsidiary of Australian company Intrepid Travel, the short trips will focus on a local theme, like art, history and food, In Marrakech, a day trip will include a meal with a local family and in Tokyo, a chat with a robot.
But the goal for The Times, which launched its travel aspect in 2013 with educational cruises and expanded to longer regional tours for small groups, is to deepen readers’ relationship to the newspaper. David Rubin, senior vice president of audience and brand at The Times, said he doesn’t expect too many people who are not already engaging with the paper to sign up for a day trip.
“The big shift for The Times, over the last five to eight years, is we’re committed to being a subscriber first business and that’s about relationships and that model requires us to have people who really get what we do and love it and want to pay for it,” Rubin said. “The repeat and highly engaged, committed relationship is more important to us than an atomic reading, if you will, a one-off big reading.”
Rubin admitted that an aspect of the new city tours is about “all of the marketing buzzwords,” and terms, like “experiential” and “multiple touch points” and “community building.”
“With The Times, if you go back far enough to where we’re largely regional and largely print, seeing everybody with the newspaper was a community-building thing,” Rubin said. “So how we re-create that community is certainly something we talk about and while this is not at the same scale as the newspaper, of course, these are the kinds of things we can do.”