New York Times adds record subscriptions in news-heavy 2020

New York Times had 7.5 million subscriptions at the end of 2020.
New York Times had 7.5 million subscriptions at the end of 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The New York Times Co said on Thursday (Feb 4) it ended 2020 with record subscriptions, as readership soared in a year that was dominated by news coverage around a series of tightly fought US elections, social unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The publication, which has seen its readership grow throughout former US President Donald Trump's term, said the news cycle will change and audience will fluctuate.

It had 7.5 million subscriptions at the end of the year, much higher than 5.25 million at end-2019.

"During (the) election week, 273 million global readers came to the Times, nearly doubling our previous weekly record," chief executive officer Meredith Kopit Levien said on a conference call.

"We regard 2020 as an outlier year for net subscription additions," Levien added.

The 169-year-old company's shares, which jumped 61 per cent in 2020, rose about 1 per cent after its earnings surpassed analysts'expectations.

The Times has grown its digital business in recent years by pumping its digital products with a rich lineup of news, podcasts, crosswords and cooking recipes, seasoned with crisp images and videos.

"Our work, which was consumed at historic levels, led to a year of strong business results, including a record 2.3 million net new digital-only subscription additions," Levien said in a statement.

However, advertising revenue fell 18.7 per cent to US$139.27 million (S$186 million) in the fourth quarter, as print ad revenues plummeted, largely due to the pandemic.

The company's total revenue rose marginally to US$509.36 million, above analysts' estimates of US$498.3 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding items, the company earned 40 US cents per share, beating estimates of 35 cents.