In the past two years, The New York Times has doubled the number of subscribers to its crossword app, according to a press release issued this past Monday. Big deal you might say. But hold on.
The Times’ crossword app now has 400,000 standalone subscribers who pay either $6.95 per month for full access or receive a 50 percent discount if they are already subscribed to the Times. However you cut it, that’s a considerable pot of monthly revenue for relatively minimal outlay.
Here’s how it works: A subscription to The New York Times Crossword gives users access to the daily puzzle online and in its iPhone, iPad, and Android apps, as well as access to all puzzles in its archive, including acrostics and variety puzzles. As part of the “Play Anywhere” feature, Crossword subscribers can continue playing the same puzzle across different devices and on the web on NYTimes.com at any time.
“In the last two years the Times has focused on highlighting the ‘daily delights’ and ‘aha moments’ of the puzzle to a broader audience,” says Eric C. von Coelln, Executive Director, Puzzles, adding, “With the introduction of the bite-size 5×5 Mini puzzle, launching an Android-native solving experience alongside our iOS and web offerings, and by focusing on helping users learn to solve, the puzzle has become the daily ritual for millions of solvers.”
The Times continues to introduce new audiences to Crosswords and is constantly looking for new opportunities to provide solvers with meaningful gaming experiences that add to the value of their subscription. In early May, The Times introduced “Spelling Bee,” a new daily word puzzle game that asks players to spell words from a collection of letters that are placed in a “hive”-like formation.
For fellow publishers, what is significant about the Times’ crosswords success is that it acts as an entry product to the Times other suites of offerings. In the first three months of 2018, 40,000 of the 139,000 new digital subscriptions originated from the Cooking and Crossword products, with total revenue from subscriptions now bringing in 60 percent of the Times’ total revenue.
With the Times’ Crosswords app acting as both a subscriptions sales funnel and a standalone revenue generator, it’s not hard to understand why other publishers like the Guardian are doubling down on crosswords and puzzles as a way of diversifying revenue channels.