The New York Times Sees Another Spike in Digital Subscriptions, but Advertising Plunges

Kathryn Hopkins
·2 mins read

A spike in digital subscriptions helped The New York Times Co. beat analysts’ revenue estimates despite another quarter of plunging advertising.

Paid digital-only subscriptions totaled about 5.7 million in the second quarter, representing a record net increase of 669,000 compared with the end of the first quarter and a rise of 1.89 million from a year earlier. It now has about 6.5 million subscriptions across its print and digital products.

Revenue from digital-only products increased 29.6 percent, to $146 million, from the second quarter of 2019. Print subscription revenues decreased 6.7 percent to $147.2 million, largely due to lower retail newsstand revenue.

Delivering his last quarterly results as president and chief executive officer, Mark Thompson said the company is “well on the way to that goal of 10 million subscriptions I set for the company last year.” Chief operating officer Meredith Kopit Levien will succeed Thompson, who is retiring on Sept. 8.

Like other media companies, The Times has been trying to become less reliant on advertising and focus more on driving revenues from subscriptions. It recently quit Apple News, stating that the service failed to boost readership numbers and pointing out that Apple does not give partners enough information about user data.

The need to find alternative sources of revenue was underscored by the second-quarter results, with advertising revenues decreasing 43.9 percent over the three months. Within that, print plunged 55 percent “as the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated secular trends, largely impacting the entertainment, luxury and technology categories.”

Digital was down 31.9 percent to $39.5 million, or 58.3 percent of total advertising revenues, compared with $58 million, or 48.1 percent, a year ago.

More advertising losses are expected in the third quarter — this time a decline of about 35 percent to 40 percent. The company recently cut 68 jobs, mainly in advertising, including staff at Fake Love, The Times’ experiential marketing agency, which it is shuttering.

The end result of all this was that total revenues for the second quarter decreased 7.5 percent to $403.8 million from $436.3 million in the second quarter of 2019. This surpassed analysts’ estimates of $387.18 million.

The quarterly changes in advertising and subscriptions also meant that for the first time digital brought in more revenues than print.

Adjusted operating profit decreased to $52.1 million from $55.6 million in the prior year.

The company’s share price was up 1.94 percent to $46.79 in premarket trading.

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