The New York Times Company has announced that it is to rebrand the International Herald Tribune (IHT), its 125-year-old newspaper based in Paris, in October this year. The new title will be branded the International New York Times and will be boosted by a large marketing campaign.
The rebrand will be accompanied with substantial improvements to both the print and online offering (especially in the case of the latter, which currently looks as if it belongs in the last decade). Aside from a more streamlined operation, the expected results will be to increase subscribers/online users thereby increasing circulation and impression delivery globally and, as a result, drive advertising revenues up across both platforms.
The change comes off the back extensive research with international audiences. As Mark Thompson (President and Chief Executive of the New York Times Company) concluded, there is “significant potential to grow the number of New York Times subscribers outside the United States”. Moreover, further research showed that the NYT brand is far better known globally than the IHT. Consequently, it seemed logical to bring the two together and create a stronger and more cohesive product for both advertisers and consumers alike.
This bold move comes with sacrifices- the NY Times is looking to sell its stake in the Boston Globe and other New England media properties in order to fund this move (it will also help the business focus strictly on NY Times branded products).
Ditching the IHT name has been suspected by many in the industry for a number of years now (ever since The New York Times Company purchased the Washington Posts 50% stake of the IHT at the end of 2002). Further evidence was the integration of both IHT.com and NYTimes.com in 2009 and “The Global Edition of the New York Times” being included below IHT masthead in both print and online.
Whether the choice of name is a good move remains to be seen. There is no denying that IHT has always had a strong affiliation with New York. When founded in Paris in 1887, the paper was called the New York Herald. This changed to the New York Tribune in 1924. In fact, the IHT name only came into force in 1967. However, despite its New York ties, we wonder what the effect of having “New York” in the newspaper’s name- especially in non-US friendly territories.
Moreover, having the word “International” in the same title as “New York” does seem a little peculiar and could confuse potential readers as they might wonder if it just a slimmed down version of the NY Times sold abroad or is if it is an international business daily. We suspect that the new name will result in the title mainly appealing to US expats.
From a commercial point of view, the global offering will bring immediate benefits. Currently, planning campaigns in the NY Times and IHT is a laborious process as they both operate separate rate cards. It is a far less streamlined affair than the FT and Economist, for example. However, a new unified rate card and greater synergy across the global portfolio will make global planning much easier.
What will these changes mean for the main competitors (these being the FT, the WSJ and, in part, The Economist)? We feel that it is only the WSJ that need perhaps worry as it is the only other title which has a big appeal with Americans (local and expats), has roots set in the US and, when looking at circulation/distribution has one that broadly resembles that of the NY Times/IHT.
The FT and The Economist both have much smaller dominance in the US and their US circulations are much smaller as a percentage of their total global run (roughly 30% for the former and 48% for the latter). This compares to unified NY Times which will see roughly 77% of its circulation in the US and the WSJ with a whopping 96% of its circulation in the US. As such, whilst the FT and Economist might see advertisers use the NY Times as a way to reach the US market, it is unlikely that they will be taken off global media plans as they still have a much higher ex-US circulation and also benefit from enormous respect and brand prestige on the international stage.