Trump Feeds Record Digital Growth at NY Times; Earnings Beat

  • Newspaper added 276,000 digital news subscribers last quarter
  • President’s tweets chiding Times amount to free advertising

New York Times Co. attracted a record number of online subscribers in the fourth quarter, bolstering a critical new revenue stream thanks to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.

The company signed up 276,000 digital news customers, the most since Times Co. started selling online subscriptions, according to a statement Thursday. The paper now has 1.85 million paying online-only readers.

The surge in web subscriptions tied to Trump’s election Nov. 8 helped the newspaper post profit excluding some items of 30 cents a share, beating the 24-cent average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue decreased 1.1 percent to $439.7 million but beat the $438 million seen by analysts.

Times Co. shares rose 1.7 percent to $13.78 at 11:36 a.m. in New York.

Trump’s election is helping Times Co. build the largest digital business of any news organization and fend off challenges from tech platforms like Facebook that are taking advertising sales from newspapers globally. The president has railed against the Times, accusing the paper of unfair news coverage of him. But those criticisms, often in the form of early-morning tweets, amount to free advertising for the Times and have helped feed the subscription surge.

Times Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson has said he wants to reach 10 million digital subscribers, though he hasn’t given a timeline for the goal.

  • Print advertising sales declined 20.4 percent, while digital ad revenue climbed 10.9 percent. Digital ads represented 41.9 percent of total ad revenue, compared with 34.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • Circulation revenue from the company’s digital-only subscriptions, which includes news and crosswords, increased 21.9 percent compared with the year earlier, to $63.7 million. 
  • Circulation sales from digital-only subscriptions to the paper’s news products rose 21.2 percent to $61.1 million.
  • Total circulation revenue in the first quarter of 2017 is expected to increase 6 percent compared with the first quarter of 2016. Total ad sales in the first quarter will likely decrease in the “high-single digits” compared with the first quarter of 2016.
  • Operating costs in the fourth quarter increased to $362.8 million, compared with $352.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, due to higher marketing, advertising, newsroom and technology costs.
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