Big Increase in Digital Subscriptions at the New York Times—Digital Revenue Now Exceeds Print Revenue

From a New York Times story by Marc Tracy headlined “The New York Times Tops 7.5 Million Subscriptions as Ads Decline”:

The New York Times set a record for its subscription business in 2020, a year when a pandemic, social unrest and a bitterly contested presidential race made headlines, the company said in an earnings report on Thursday.

After adding 2.3 million digital-only subscriptions in 2020, more than in any previous year, The Times exceeded 7.5 million subscriptions for its digital products and print newspaper. . . .

The largest gains of 2020 occurred during two news-heavy periods. In the quarter that started in April, when a great number of Americans were weeks into a routine of working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company added 669,000 digital subscriptions. In the fourth quarter, which included Election Day, The Times had an increase of roughly 627,000 digital subscriptions.

“In 2020, we reached two key milestones, both of which we expect to be enduring: Digital revenue overtook print for the first time, and digital subscription revenue, long our fastest-growing revenue stream, is also now our largest,” Meredith Kopit Levien, the company’s chief executive said. . . .

For the year, The Times’s primary digital offering, its news product, gained 1.7 million subscribers, a 48 percent increase over 2019. More than five million Times subscriptions are for the news product alone, The Times said. Other digital offerings, like the Cooking and Games apps, gained more than 600,000 subscriptions in 2020, a 66 percent rise, for a total of roughly 1.6 million. The remaining subscriptions — about 833,000 — are for the print newspaper. . . .

A downside to the quarter, and the year, were ad sales. The closings and suspensions of businesses during the pandemic took a toll across the media industry, cutting into the marketing budgets of many companies that buy ads. Total ad revenue at The Times fell 26 percent in 2020, to $392.4 million, with print ad revenue bearing the brunt of the annual decline, at 39 percent, the company said. . . .

The subscription gains last year put The Times on its way to achieving its stated goal of reaching 10 million by 2025. The increase occurred even as The Times, which started charging for online content in 2011, raised the prices of some digital news subscriptions.

“With a billion people reading digital news, and an expected 100 million willing to pay for it in English, it’s not hard to imagine that, over time, The Times’s subscriber base could be substantially larger than where we are today,” Ms. Levien said. . . .

Marc Tracy covers print and digital media. He previously covered college sports.

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