What is Happening?

For the first time, the New York Times has brought in more revenue from online readers than from its print subscribers.

The company said it now has seven million subscribers across all its products and that net profit doubled to $33.6m on total revenues of $426.9m. Coinciding with one of the most intense presidential elections in recent history, The New York Times added 393k digital subscribers over the 3 months to the end of September 2020.

The New York Times placed a bet on digital readers as the future engine of its business back in 2011 when it started charging for online content. At the time this was largely controversial but now seems to be paying off.

  • 📈 Online subscription revenue rose 34%, to $155.3 million
  • 📄 Print subscriptions decreased 3.8% to $145.7 million
  • 💵 Advertising sales decreased 30%, to $79.3 million

“Our strategy of making journalism worth paying for continues to prove itself out,” Meredith Kopit Levien, who took over as chief executive in September, said in a statement. Digital subscriptions would not only be the central driver of the publisher’s growth, Ms. Levien added, but eventually become its biggest business.

What Does it Mean?

It is also no surprise to see that digital readers were the only growth driver for the business itself with print revenue slowing for some time.

Perhaps surprising is that that the cornerstone of the publishing business, advertising sales, has been hurting. Dropping 30% to $79.3 million, advertising sales for The New York Times has been clearly impacted by the pandemic which has put pressure on paper readership as well as advertisers marketing budgets.

🤔 Did the NYT become a tech company? Well, uh, kind of...

Zero marginal cost of subscription distribution is a far more efficient means of content distribution when compared with more traditional newspaper sales. Digital subscription models also offer far more options when it comes to data capture, which in turn creates more ways for publishers like The New York Times to optimise for more valuable customers.

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