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Newsonomics: “Retiring” from Tronc, what is Michael Ferro up to?
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May 3, 2017, 10:43 a.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   May 3, 2017

The failing New York Times actually had a strong first quarter adding more subscriptions than at any other point in its history (308,000 net new digital subscriptions!). Despite continued declines in print advertising, the company was able to make up enough from digital advertising, subscriptions, and brand-spanking-new affiliate revenue from its Wirecutter/Sweethome acquisition to actually grow revenues overall: They were up 5 percent for the quarter, to $398.8 million.

Unpacking the release and the investor call that followed it a bit:

— The New York Times now has 2.2 million digital-only subscriptions, up 62.2 percent compared to this time last year. It added 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the quarter, “making Q1 the single best quarter for subscriber growth in our history,” CEO Mark Thompson said in the release. 40,000 people subscribed to the crossword product during the quarter.

— In a conference call following the earnings release, Times CRO Meredith Kopit Levien said that “demographically, the new audience is tending to be younger and skewing slightly more female, in part based on work we’re doing to target that way.” The “single largest cohort of growth” is millennials.

— The Times acknowledges that, of course, the Trump bump is accounting for a lot of subscriber growth, but a “close and very important second” is improved customer reversion and retention, said Levien.

— “Circulation revenue from the Company’s digital-only subscriptions (which includes news product and Crossword product subscriptions)” was up 40 percent over this time in 2016, to $75.8 million. $72.9 million of that came from subscriptions to news products, meaning that the Crossword product subscriptions are pulling in around $3 million a year.

— Digital advertising revenue was up 19 percent, to $49.7 million, while print advertising fell by 17.9 percent. Digital now makes up 38.2 percent of the company’s total advertising revenues, an 8.3 percent increase compared to this time last year.

— The acquisition of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome last fall is paying off. The Times made $26.4 million in “other” revenues in the first quarter, a 20.9 percent increase compared to this time in 2016. According to the release, this was “largely due to affiliate revenue associated with the product review and recommendation websites, The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, which the Company acquired in October 2016.” If the Times indeed made $5 million in affiliate revenue in one quarter, the reported $30 million that the company paid for the sites seems like a bargain.

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