NYT Subway Ads Unblock Spelling Bee in Targeted Campaign

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Diving Brief:

  • The New York Times gaming division is running a digital out-of-home (OOH) campaign on New York City subway trains and platforms to promote its title Spelling Bee, according to an ad.
  • The effort includes QR codes that take players to the daily Spelling Bee, as well as hints and tips for solving the puzzle. For each person who shares a “Genius” or “Queen Bee” status using the #beetime hashtag and tagging @nytgames, the company will donate $1 (up to $500,000) to First Book, which distributes educational resources to those who need them.
  • New York Times games, some of which are only available by subscription, have become a key source of revenue and engagement as mobile games explode in popularity and profitability.

Overview of the dive:

With New York employees returning to the office – at least once in a while – the opportunity to increase engagement presents itself. New York Times Games aims to make the ride a little more interesting with a new campaign centered around its Spelling Bee puzzle game that asks players to make as many words as possible using seven letters.

The return to the pendulum makes it possible to reach a captive audience of business people and students with more free time. Enabling easy access to daily New York Times games is a simple way to increase engagement with one of the company’s most popular features and potentially drive subscriptions. The publisher also associates a campaign user-generated content item with a charitable cause.

According to new research from Outfront, a Times partner, nearly three-quarters (72%) of corporate office workers in New York City are back in the office full-time or on a hybrid schedule. Additionally, subway ridership rebounded to 83% of pre-pandemic levels.

As an example of the game’s value to the company, The Times bought popular game Wordle in January for an amount disclosed as “in the seven figures”. In a subsequent earnings report, the publisher said the game brought “unprecedented tens of millions of new users” and attracted the top quarter of net new subscribers to its game offering.

Many games, including Spelling Bee, Letter Boxed, Tiles, and Vertex, are only available through a special subscription. At $5 per month (or $40 per year) and separate from the company’s traditional digital news subscription, the Games section has proven to be a reliable source of revenue for the company.

While other games such as Wordle are currently free for non-subscribers, it is possible that these will find themselves behind the paywall at some point. wordle this week began running ads on its desktop version, with luggage distributor Rimowa as its first sponsor.

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