Feb 2, 2022 - Economy

New York Times surpasses 10 million subscriptions

The New York Times building. Photo: Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

The New York Times on Wednesday said that with the addition of The Athletic, the digital sports publisher it acquired for $550 million, it has surpassed 10 million paid subscriptions, well ahead of its initial goal to reach that milestone by 2025.

Why it matters: The achievement reinforces the Times' position as the world's largest subscription news company. The Gray Lady is now targeting "at least 15 million subscribers by year-end 2027."

Driving the news: The Times, for the first time, said it will begin distinguishing the number of subscribers (people who subscribe to its content) from actual subscriptions (the number of individual subscription products people pay for).

  • "We're moving towards an emphasis on individual subscriber growth rather than the growth of digital subscribers," CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said on an investor call.
  • She noted that a bundled offering that includes things like games, sports, cooking and more creates "an even more compelling value proposition" for customers to engage with the Times every day "regardless of the news cycle."
  • The Times' chief financial officer, Roland Caputo, said that as the company continues to market the bundle, "the number of individual subscribers becomes a less useful number to measure."

Be smart: The Times is shifting its focus on a bundled subscription offering in part because it believes it will be able to make more money per subscriber.

  • "The driving motivation of moving toward a more intentional marketing of the bundled offering is higher (subscriber) retention but also higher ARPU (average revenue per user}," Caputo said.

By the numbers: By the end of last year, the Times had 7.6 million paid subscribers, the vast majority (6.8 million) were paid digital-only subscribers.

  • In total, those subscribers paid for roughly 8,789,000 individual subscriptions across its print and digital products, with the vast majority (8,005,000) being paid digital-only subscriptions.
  • The Times said that it surpassed 10 million subscriptions total with the addition of The Athletic's paid subscribers. The Times said The Athletic had around 1.2 million subscribers when it announced the deal to acquire the company.

For the first time ever last quarter, the Times added more paid digital subscribers to its non-core news products, which includes things like games, cooking, and its consumer reviews site Wirecutter, than its core news product.

  • In total, the Times added 375,000 new digital subscriptions, 204,000 in non-news and 171,000 in core news.
  • On Monday, the Times bought "Wordle," a viral online word game for a price "in the low-seven figures," to contribute to its offerings.
  • On its earnings call, the Times said it had officially closed its acquisition of The Athletic, and that it financed the entire purchase with cash-on-hand.

Between the lines: The earnings beat proved the Times' resiliency in a post-Trump world with less news engagement broadly across all news sites.

  • For the full year in 2021, the Times brought in more than $2 billion in revenue, the first time it had surpassed $2 billion in a decade.
  • In 2021, the Times posted "its strongest operating profit and adjusted operating profit in many years," per a statement.

What to watch: In a statement, Levien said that Times executives believed there were "at least 135 million adults worldwide" who would be willing to pay for a subscription to the Times, up from 100 million estimated last year.

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