Feb 12, 2019 - Economy

Media's digital efforts pay off

Data: NYT earnings reports; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: NYT earnings reports; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Companies that began publicly planning for the digital transformation of their business 6 years ago are beginning to see their efforts pay off.

What's happening: Both the New York Times and Turner publicly committed to pivoting their businesses to meet new digital goals in 2014, and their companies have come a long way ahead of 2020.

Why it matters: Neither effort has been pretty, a reminder that the thousands of layoffs announced over the past month within the media industry are par for the course of survival in the internet era.

  • "Turner 2020," the name given to Turner's transformation effort in 2014, resulted in the layoffs of roughly 10% of its workforce, or around 1,475 positions across many divisions.
  • "The 2020 report," the report that mapped The New York Times' efforts to double digital revenue by 2020, has too resulted in pain points. The company has cut dozens of staff members and critical positions, like copy editors and its highly-visible public editor role, an in effort to put more resources into digital.

Where they stand:

  • NYT announced last week that it brought in $709 million in digital revenue, up from ~$400 million in 2014. The milestone means it's on pace to meet its stated goal of $800 million in digital sales by the end of 2020. That goal was created after the company published its initial step to its digital overhaul plan, the now infamous 2014 Innovation Report.
  • Turner, which still makes a large majority of its revenue from linear broadcast, has come a long way in digitizing its video content and monetizing its web services. It put its programming early on digital skinny bundles like Dish's SlingTV in 2015 and launched several direct-to-consumer streaming services (although some of those now have been folded). Today, Turner Digital remains one of the largest digital franchises on the web.

Be smart: Turner's digital transformation is worth noting, but nowhere near as tangible as NYT, which reports actual digital revenue figures.

What's next: NYT says that it hopes to grow its subscription business to more than 10 million subscriptions by 2025. A large part of that will continue to be through lifestyle services, like subscriptions to cooking and crossword content. This month it launched a new game, Letter Boxed, to keep its 400,000 crossword subscribers hooked.

Go deeper: More than 1,000 media jobs lost in one day

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