The New York Times Invests in Mobile Gaming

Lower Subscriber Numbers Expected

Last year, the most-searched words on the New York Times (NYT) website were not related to politics or to COVID-19. They were the words “crossword” and “Spelling Bee,” which is the name of the newspaper’s online word game.

2020 was a tumultuous year for the news cycle. Subscribers flocked to The New York Times to stay up-to-date about the presidential election, vaccine development, and other news. But analysts warn that this subscriber growth likely will not continue into 2021. For this reason, The New York Times is looking for ways to diversify its revenue sources and it sees the $100 billion mobile games market as a way to do this.

The Times’ New Hire

At the end of 2020, The Times had 840,000 games subscribers. This represented a 40% increase from the same period a year earlier. For context, the company has 5.1 million digital news subscribers, so games are still a small part of its business, but the company is investing more money in games than ever before.

The Times recently hired Jonathan Knight, who was part of the team which created viral games like Words With Friends and FarmVille at Zynga Inc. (ZNGA). Knight will build a team to design unique, creative games that go beyond crossword puzzles and Spelling Bee.

Navigating a Difficult Time for Journalism

The 170-year-old newspaper is nowhere near becoming exclusively a gaming company. But it wants to offer more services than just news, and it wants to provide products which compliment its news offerings. For example, it hopes users will take breaks from reading intense stories to play a quick game and then continue reading articles.

The New York Times’ share price climbed over 60% last year—its fourth straight year of gains. Though the journalism industry as a whole is struggling financially, The Times has so far been able to navigate a difficult landscape. Mobile games may help it continue to achieve success.

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