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How The New York Times prepared for the ultimate stress test — the 2020 election
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Nov. 5, 2020, 1:39 p.m.
LINK: www.nytimes.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   November 5, 2020

There are still votes left to be counted, but The New York Times is finished counting its third-quarter numbers, and we can project a winner: The Times now, for the first time, generates more revenue from its digital subscribers than from its print subscribers. And its total count of subscriptions passed 7 million for the first time last month.

As of Sept. 30, its number of digital news subscribers was up 45.9 percent over the previous year. Even better were its “other” digital subscriptions (mostly Games and Cooking), which were up 63.6 percent. (That nomenclature is a change, by the way: What the Times has for decades called “Crosswords” is now broadened to “Games” in the company’s filings. Spelling Bee remains on the march.) Print subs, meanwhile, were down 3.9 percent.

In all, that’s a year-over-year increase of more than 2 million digital subscriptions. (It took the Times more than four years from the launch of its digital paywall to hit 2 million subscribers total. Now that’s one year’s haul.) The Times added 393,000 digital subscribers in the quarter.

Subscription revenues increased 12.6 percent to $301 million and digital-only products revenue increased 34 percent to $155.3 million, making digital readership the only source of growth for The Times this quarter. Print subscription revenue decreased 3.8 percent to $145.7 million “largely due to lower retail newsstand revenue, while revenue from our domestic home delivery subscription products grew 2.5 percent.” Advertising remains a giant mess, down 12.6 percent in digital, an astonishing 46.5 percent in print, and 30.2 percent overall.

At the same time, product development costs were up 27.9 percent compared to Q3 2019, which the Times attributes to the increase of digital product development employees in connection with its subscription strategy.

The earnings report reflects what many of us had hoped would be true for the news industry: Subscriber-first strategies and investing in high-quality journalism are profitable. And despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and nearly five years of constant attacks on the news media by the president, the Times projects a 14 percent increase in total subscription revenue in the fourth quarter vs. 2019, as well as a 35 percent increase in digital-only subscription revenue. The Times is well on its way to meet its goal of 10 million subscribers by 2025 and well on its way to make its digital journalism its core revenue stream.

“The continued demand for quality, original, independent journalism across a range of topics makes us even more optimistic about the size of the total market for digital journalism subscriptions and our position in it,” Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said today.

You can read the full announcement here.

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