New York Times Shares Surge as Online Subscribers Keep Growing

  • Publisher is ahead of pace to double digital sales by 2020
  • Print advertising drops 12%, a slower decline than in the past

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

New York Times Co. shares surged to their highest level in more than a decade after the publisher gave a bullish forecast for online subscriptions, easing concern about a decline in print advertising.

The Times added 99,000 digital news subscribers in the fourth quarter, the company said Thursday. While the pace slowed from the same period last year, when massive interest in the election helped add 276,000 online subscribers, Chief Executive Mark Thompson expects the momentum to continue. The gains followed a recent decision to cut the amount of free online articles per month to five from 10.

“We believe there remains a large opportunity to continue to extend our subscription reach,” Thompson said in a statement.

Times shares jumped as much as 16 percent to $25.70 in New York on Thursday, the highest mark since June 2007. They are up about 35 percent so far this year.

Scoops on the Trump administration’s scandals and sexual-harassment allegations in Hollywood have contributed to the surge in subscriptions. The publisher wants more of its business to come from paying readers as print advertising steadily declines and online advertising is increasingly dominated by Facebook and Google.

Annual subscription revenue topped $1 billion for the first time, and it now makes up 60 percent of total sales. Print advertising fell 12 percent in the quarter, which was better than expected, according to Craig Huber, an analyst at Huber Research.

The Times posted fourth-quarter profit of 39 cents per share, beating analysts’ estimates of 29 cents. Revenue of $484.1 million also beat analysts’ estimates of $467.5 million.

The company finished the year with more than $600 million in digital revenue. Thompson said the company was ahead of schedule in reaching its five-year goal of doubling digital sales to $800 million by 2020.

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