Despite Recent Controversies, NYT Has Uptick in Subscriptions

In late September, the New York Times was widely criticized for publishing identifying details about the whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.  A month earlier, a controversial front-page headline about Trump’s response to a series of horrific mass shootings garnered another wave of criticism for the paper.

In both cases, The Times faced severe criticism on social media, and in particular, on Twitter, where calls for subscribers to cancel their subscriptions were trending in the aftermath of each story. At the height of the backlash following the whistleblower story, the hashtag #CancelNYT was trending with over 45,000 tweets.

And yet, in spite of the appearance of thousands of disgruntled subscribers, the Times gained an additional 273,000 subscribers in the third quarter, which comprises July, August and September.

In total, the paper now has 4.9 million subscribers across print and digital and is projected to reach 10 million by 2025.

International subscriptions also grew, totaling 500,000 this quarter, placing the Times on track to reach its goal of reaching 2 million by 2025. This projection shows international readers growing from about 10% of the current subscribers to 20% over the next 6 years.

While subscription-based revenue grew steadily, advertising revenue fell by 6.7%. And digital ad revenue, which is increasingly crucial as print media continues to decline, dropped by 5.4%. Nearly 70% of all digital ad revenue goes to technology and commerce giants Google, Facebook and Amazon, according to eMarketer, a market research firm.

[Facing Diminishing Ad Revenues, Digital Media Outlets Downsize and Consider Consolidation]

“Like other publishers, we’re seeing continued turbulence in the digital advertising space,” said Mark Thompson, chief executive officer of the New York Times Company. “While digital advertising performed slightly better in [this quarter] than we had originally forecasted, we expect a fairly challenging fourth quarter.”

Thompson said the company remains confident in its advertising strategy, which is focused on “major advertising relationships,” like its partnership with Verizon, which recently agreed to sponsor Times subscriptions for high school students. Thompson also pointed to revenue from newer products, like podcasts, which are yielding “spectacular growth.”

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