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May 6, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:15am

New York Times subscribers top 6m but ad revenues set to halve in coming months

By William Turvill

The New York Times’ revenue increased in the first three months of the year as interest in coronavirus news sent subscriber numbers soaring, compensating for the collapse of the advertising market.

Reporting its first-quarter results for the year today, the New York Times Company said that, as of the end of April, it had more than six million subscribers across print and digital.

Between January and March the group added 587,000 net new subscribers – the biggest increase since it began charging readers for news online in 2011.

Chief executive Mark Thompson said this dwarfed the number of new subscribers it gained in the first quarter of 2017 – “the peak of the so-called ‘Trump bump’” – when readership increased by two-thirds as the US public sought to learn more about their new President.

The impact of the coronavirus on US news publishers hit hardest in March, as measures were taken to slow its spread.

Overall, the NYT’s turnover was up by one per cent to $443.6m. Subscription revenues were up 5.4 per cent, while ad revenues – battered by the economic crisis prompted by Covid-19 – were down 15.2 per cent.

The fall in advertising led to the Times’ operating profit dropping from $34.6m in the first quarter of last year to $27.3m.

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Thompson also warned that he expects the company’s advertising sales to fall between 50-55 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter of this year.

“Nonetheless, we believe that the company will emerge from this global crisis with a distinctive and valuable advertising revenue stream to complement a digital news subscription business which is now by far the largest and most successful in the world,” he said.

“The revenue from those subscriptions – and our strong balance sheet – give us real confidence, not just that we can remain financially sound through the pandemic, but also that we can safely invest in our digital growth strategy and continue to hire new talent to help execute it.”

At the time of writing, shares in the New York Times Company were trading up six per cent in the day at $35.48.

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