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The New Yorker magazine is currently engaged in a fairly aggressive digital strategy. Rather than going the New York Times/Wall Street Journal route of hiding content behind a simple pay wall, the venerable culture and literary publication is going the freemium route and putting exclusive owned media content behind a Facebook “Like” wall.

While paid subscribers will be able to read the full story (an essay by National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Johnathan Franzen) in the print version of the magazine, access to the full piece online requires users to “Like” the New Yorker’s Facebook page. This move is akin to recent initiatives in the music industry, debuting singles by artists like Jennifer Lopez and Lil Wayne via a Facebook “Like” unlock.

Coupled with the recent in-app capability to purchase individual issues of their tablet edition on the iPad and Kindle, this demonstrates a concerted effort by the print industry to remain viable in the digital age. The New Yorker enjoys a high subscriber base and renewal rate (85% as of 2009, one of the highest reported rates in the industry according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation), but seems to be keenly aware of the ongoing shift toward digital content across a variety of market segments.

According to Alexa Cassanos, spokeswoman for The New Yorker as quoted on Mashable.com:

“Our goal with this isn’t just to increase our fans. We want to engage with people who want to engage on a deeper level.”

So what does this all mean?

  • The print edition of The New Yorker had over one million subscribers nationwide as of 2009;
  • The average age of its readership was 47 years;
  • Average household income of readers was $109,877;

The website NewYorker.com boasts similar numbers:

  • An estimated average of 1.3 million unique visitors per month;
  • Overwhelmingly older with 66% of visitors 35 years or older;
  • 30% with a household income over $100,000.

Clearly not the demographics Mark Zuckerberg and Co. had in mind when they first unleashed Facebook upon the world of the young and hyper-connected.

With such a solid and loyal readership, why bother with digital editions and Facebook fans? Clearly The New Yorker is banking on a long-term digital strategy that values reaching out to and engaging with readers via the channels for which they are showing an increasing preference.

At the base level, the publication is striving to retain the three qualities that comprise quality content: making it interesting, relevant, and valuable.

The basic digital edition–available at no extra charge to print subscribers–includes a limited selection of content, usually truncated down from that which appears in print. The tablet edition features a more robust selection with complete articles and bonus content. In concert with exclusive content contingent upon a higher level of engagement (a Facebook “Like,” etc.) the magazine is seeking to add value to the experience of being a reader, utilizing digital platforms.

This new digital strategy has two likely positive net effects on readership: attracting younger readers by engaging with them in places and means to which they’re already well-accustomed; and taking older readers through the baby steps of the digital shift. By making it easy for both potential and existing customers to take advantage of content unavailable anywhere else, The New Yorker is exemplifying the kind of forward-thinking digital strategy that should be at the top of any brand’s list of priorities.

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