New York Times' 2025 target: 10m subscribers

NEW YORK • The New York Times' online subscriber numbers accelerated in the fourth quarter, prompting the newspaper company to set an ambitious new goal - hit 10 million subscriptions by 2025.

The publisher of the eponymous newspaper added 265,000 new digital subscriptions in the period, the biggest increase since the months right after the 2016 election.

The Times had 203,000 in the previous quarter and 109,000 in the quarter before that.

The paper ended the year with 3.4 million digital subscriptions and 4.3 million total subscriptions.

Times shares rose as much as 6.2 per cent to US$28.59 in pre-market trading yesterday. That would be a 13-year high on a closing basis.

"Our appeal to subscribers - and to the world's leading advertisers - depends more than anything on the quality of our journalism," chief executive Mark Thompson said in a statement announcing the company's fourth-quarter financial results.

"That is why we have increased, rather than cut back, our investment in our newsroom and opinion departments. We want to accelerate our digital growth further, so in 2019, we will direct fresh investment into journalism, product and marketing."

While many newspapers have struggled to make up for print losses as readers move online, the Times has built a large digital subscription business.

Last month, BuzzFeed laid off 15 per cent of its workforce, roughly 220 employees; Verizon Media Group announced a 7 per cent cut in its media divisions, which equals about 800 positions; and a 10 per cent cut is under way at Vice Media.

QUALITY JOURNALISM VITAL

Our appeal to subscribers - and to the world's leading advertisers - depends more than anything on the quality of our journalism. That is why we have increased, rather than cut back, our investment in our newsroom and opinion departments. We want to accelerate our digital growth further, so in 2019, we will direct fresh investment into journalism, product and marketing.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE MARK THOMPSON, in a statement announcing the company's fourth-quarter financial results.

Subscribers to the Times surged in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's election, before slowing in the first half of last year. But the online subscriber gains have picked up in recent quarters, reflecting the public's continued demand for news and the paper's marketing strategies.

The Times said it was about three-quarters of the way to hitting its goal set in 2015 of doubling digital revenue to US$800 million (S$1 billion) by 2020.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 10 per cent excluding the impact of an extra week in 2017, with subscription sales up 5 per cent and advertising sales up 11 per cent. Digital advertising revenue was up 23 per cent, while print advertising revenue fell 10.2 per cent.

The Times is also spending more to get those new subscribers. Marketing expenses increased to US$48.6 million in the fourth quarter, up about 50 per cent from a year ago.

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2019, with the headline 'New York Times' 2025 target: 10m subscribers'. Print Edition | Subscribe