The New York Times suffered a significant drop in new subscribers in the first quarter of the year, adding fewer new subscribers than it averaged per quarter last year.
The “Gray Lady” added 167,000 net new digital news subscribers in the first quarter compared to the 415,250 per quarter it averaged last year, The Hill reported.
Despite this drop, The Times believes that subscriber growth will return to what it was prior to 2020.
“There is no doubt that the news cycles of the last five years, capped by last year’s tumultuous presidential elections, racial reckoning and the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented demand for Times journalism and therefore accelerated subscription,” New York Times Company CEO and President Meredith Kopit Levien said in an earnings call with investors.
“In February and March, our audiences declined from their historic highs last year, and we saw fewer net subscription additions in the latter part of the quarter.”
Prior to 2020, 2019 was the best year for net subscription additions, according to The Times’ company report announcing the results of the first quarter.
“We’ve made a sizable and sustained investment in our journalistic engine — an engine that powers the largest and most successful digital subscription business in journalism,” the report read.
“While we don’t know which storylines will drive the next big news cycle, we do know that the size of our newsroom, its range of expertise, and our continued investment in meeting more needs position us to capture that demand, whatever its source.”
Kopit Levien had previously pointed out that the growth in new subscribers in the last year was driven by the unpredictable news cycle and could not be expected to continue at the same rate, The Hill reported.
Even though the number of news subscribers grew by less than it had been last year, the number still grew from 5.1 million news-only subscribers at the end of 2020 to roughly 5.3 million at the end of the first quarter.
Total subscribers also grew from 7.5 million at the end of 2020 to 7.8 million in the first quarter of 2021.
“While total audience registered readers on site and subscriber engagement are somewhat lower this year than last, these metrics are all higher than in 2019,” Kopit Levien said.
The company’s overall revenue was reported to be $473 million in the first quarter, an increase of 6.6 percent compared to the first quarter of 2020. That figure includes $329.1 million in subscription revenue.
“When we compare ourselves to other content-based digital media companies, we think our churn or our overall retention [rate] and monthly churn are at a world-class level,” Kopit Levien said.
“I’d say that the newest cohort, you know a huge surge in new [subscriptions] last year, the newest cohort folks who came in last year are retaining slightly less well than in the past, but I’d say not in a troubling way.”
The Times expects total subscription revenues to increase by approximately 15 percent in the second quarter compared to the second quarter of 2020.
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