The New York Times Says It Has More Subscribers Than Ever
It’s been a rough 20 years for the newspaper business. Hyper-efficient digital distribution has torpedoed the old business model. But people still like to read the news, as a new data point today from The New York Times suggests.
With more than 1 million digital-only subscribers and 1.1 million print-and-digital subscribers, the Times says it has more subscribers than ever before in its 164-year history.
“Many news organizations, facing competition from digital outlets, have sharply reduced the size of their newsrooms and their investment in news gathering,” writes Times executive editor Dean Baquet. “But The New York Times has not. We have our subscribers to thank for that.”
“We still employ as many reporters as we did 15 years ago—and our ranks now include graphics editors, developers, video journalists and other digital innovators who are making our digital offerings ever richer,” Baquet adds.
It’s no surprise that Baquet is touting its subscriber numbers. Rather than rely solely on ads, the Times’ more than 2 million subscribers help support its journalism. The Times isn’t the only publication to find success with this kind of model, in which readers are relied on for revenue as well as eyeballs. Traditional publishers like the Financial Times have found success charging readers to read, as have new digital-only entrants into the news game like Jessica Lessin’s The Information and Ben Thompson’s Stratechery.
But, for all of its seeming success, the Times‘ business is still a precarious one. While more than 2 million readers may pay for subscriptions, the Times touts more than 57 million monthly unique visitors, indicating that the vast majority of its audience still doesn’t pay. Shifting ad dollars remain a problem too. In its earnings report in August this year, the company said that print ad revenue continues to fall while digital ad revenue grows. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except that digital ads represent only a third of the company’s total ad revenue.
In August, Times executives highlighted opportunities to grow the business, including new partnerships with tech companies like Facebook and Apple. But the core of its business remains more or less the same as that of most publishers: a combination of print and digital ads and subscriptions along with the much bigger non-paying audience viewing ads on its website.
The Times also announced today that it will be renaming its “Times Premier” enhanced subscription. The rebranded “Times Insider” gives readers who pay an extra $8 per month access to its journalists with new podcasts, live events, a newsletter, and extra content. The Times is trying to create more incentives for people willing to pay—and pay more.
And for good reason: Times may have more subscribers than ever before, but, now more than ever, it needs them.
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