Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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New York Times Reports $24 Million Profit – Thanks to Digital Subscriptions

Last month we reported how the New York Times made more than $1 billion in overall subscription revenue last year, with a total of more than 2.6 million digital-only subscriptions. At a time when many media companies are struggling, the NY Times actually saw its circulation surge, with digital subscriptions leading the way.

This week we discovered how this has translated into hard cash: the publisher announced a $24 million profit.

Digital subscriptions soared by another 250,000 subscribers in Q1 and Q2 2018, counteracting an ongoing decline in print advertising which according to the last available figures fell 14% in 2017.

The company said on Wednesday that revenue from digital subscriptions rose to $99 million in the second quarter, a jump of nearly 20 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

“Subscription revenues accounted for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenues, a trend we expect to continue,” Mark Thompson, the company’s chief executive, said in a news release. “We continue to believe that there is significant runway to expand that base substantially.”

Other company revenue grew 40 percent in the second quarter, largely as a result of the publisher’s agreement with Newsday to print and distribute its publications – additional sources of revenue included the renting of four floors in its New York headquarters and the success of Wirecutter (similar to the UK’s Which?), a review and recommendation website bought by The Times in 2016.

One factor behind the success of the NY Times’ growth strategy is their focus on curated newsletters. The New York Times has 55 email newsletters – the editorial emails go out to subscribers at least weekly, along with some marketing-focused newsletters, which are released less frequently.

“We’re in a very busy news period, and the amount of journalism that we produce every day can be pretty daunting, even for someone who gets paid to synthesize it,” said Chris Stanford, a “news concierge” who sends the U.S. Morning Briefing, one of The New York Times’s most popular newsletters, to 1.6 million subscribers.

The company has also rolled out a number of other digital subscription initiatives, for example, The Times’ crossword app has 400,000 subscribers who pay either $6.95 per month for full access or receive a 50 percent discount if they are already subscribed to the Times.

For fellow publishers, what is significant about the Times’ crosswords success is that it acts as an entry product to the Times other suites of offerings. In the first three months of 2018, 40,000 of the 139,000 new digital subscriptions originated from either its cooking or crossword products.

What is clear, is that at a time when the New York Times’ print ad revenue is suffering double-digit declines, the company is focusing on adding innovative features across its digital subscription offerings. It’s a strategy that’s working.