New York Times Dives Into Retail With New Catalog, Online Store

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There is breaking news from The New York Times Co.


The newspaper publisher will test a catalog later this year that draws on its century-plus archive of news and photographs. The makeover as a direct marketing retailer follows the success of its mail-order business, and last month's debut of its online store at nytimes.com/nytstore.


"Our catalog will be a full suite of products that has not just the photographic collections but also anything else that we have available for sale, including books and videos, reprints, posters, products like New York Times jackets or umbrellas," said Nancy Lee, director of business development at the Times' news services division.


Though it's not a fait accompli for a newspaper to launch a catalog, Lisa Allen, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA, said the Times has the brand and merchandise that makes its offering unique.


"It depends if they're going to see it through and provide the resources [for] it," Allen said. "Could they do it? Yes. Will they do it? It depends on the resources and the time they give it to grow. Selling [Times products] online to me makes more sense than issuing a catalog book."


This won't be the Times' first dabble in catalog production. In 1996, it produced a one-off catalog of photographs to commemorate a century of ownership by the descendants of Adolph S. Ochs, who bought the Times in 1896.


The new catalog hasn't been given a name, the initial drop is still undetermined, nor has the publishing date or frequency been decided. But it is likely that the first run will feature 25 collections, mirroring the inventory on the Times' online store at the time of launch.


Initially, the company will target readers of the Times and its sister publications before seeking new markets. At the moment, however, all efforts are focused on pushing the online store, which is step two in this retailing evolution as the millennium hoopla subsides. Times Company Digital, which handles the company's electronic-media properties, is preparing a series of ads to gain the attention of the estimated 10 million registered site users.


Later this month, readers of the Times' Web edition will receive an e-mail about the online store's opening, a tactic that may be adopted for pushing the catalog and mail-order arm as well. A monthly e-mail reminder also is in the works. In addition, the store will be getting its own permanent button on the Web edition's navigational toolbar. The store currently offers an array of 150 products, most of them end-of-century reflections, historic reprints, classic photographs, posters, books and millennium mementos.


Mail order, the already profitable, nearly 2-year-old part of the Times' direct business, is not being neglected, either. In December, the publisher dropped direct-mail pieces to an estimated 100,000 home subscribers. Created by Bozell, New York, the mailer was a coded poster of a 1908 photograph of New York's Times Square. On the back was a listing of Times' discounted millennium products.


But the biggest marketing trump card for the organization continues to be its flagship newspaper. This year, it will regularly run ads in various sections of the Times to tout the mail-order business, online store and, soon, the catalog. Business from any corner of the ring is welcome.


"That's the point," Lee said, "to leverage everything we have for the past hundred years."
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