Aug 4, 2021 - Economy

New York Times subscriptions continue to trend toward non-news products

Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The New York Times on Wednesday said it added 142,000 paid digital-only subscriptions last quarter, 65,000 of which were for its non-core news products, like cooking, games and audio.

Why it matters: It's the highest percentage of non-core news subscriptions that The Times has added in its history. The Gray Lady has leaned more heavily into non-news products in recent years to offset news cycle turbulence.

  • The Times, like most newsrooms, has been impacted by the web traffic slumps that have coincided with the new administration. Last quarter was The Times' slowest in terms of net new subscription growth in two years.
  • CEO Meredith Kopit Levien acknowledged that dynamic in a statement saying, "[W]e believe that while the news cycle will continue to have significant effects on our subscription growth, we are increasing our control over the levers of our subscription model."
  • Those levers include things like using pay meters in more sophisticated ways.

By the numbers: The Times added 142,000 total net new paid digital subscriptions last year, with 46% (65,000) going to cooking, games and audio products and 54% (77,000) going towards core news products.

  • The Times beat its previous record of non-core news subscription adds from last quarter, which was 44%. But it added fewer total subscriptions.
  • The company said in a statement was expected, given that Q2 is typically its "softest of the year," and that it was "comparing against last year’s historic results at the beginning of the Covid crisis."

The big picture: Overall, The Times says it now has more than 8 million paid subscriptions across its digital and print products.

  • It's well on its way to reaching its long-stated goal of having at least 10 million paid digital-only subscribers by 2025. The Times says it expects that there are 100 million people willing to pay for news in English.
  • Revenues for subscriptions and advertising were up 15.7 percent year-over-year — the highest rate of subscription growth in over a decade. The company attributed some of that growth to pricing increases.
  • Advertising growth was up 66.4 % year-over-year. Those gains are largely attributed to growth compared to the weak advertising market in 2020.
  • Record subscription growth over the past few years, combined with a massive resurgence in the advertising market, has led The Times to a whopping 78% increase in operating profit last quarter compared to Q2 2020.
  • The Times says it ended the quarter with $93 million in profit and $946.6 million in cash.

What's next: Moving forward, The Times says it expects to add roughly the same number of new digital subscriptions this year that it did in 2019, which was a little over 1 million.

  • Levien said that the company expects to add its consumer reviews site, Wirecutter, to its subscription bundle this fall.
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