New York Times racks up digital customers; print ads slide

Friday, February 3, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 5

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times Co. is racking up digital subscribers as President Donald Trump makes news waves, but the decline in the print business continues to drag on its finances.

The New York company said Thursday that it added 276,000 new digital news subscribers from October to December, the best quarter since 2011, when it started offering digital-only deals. At the end of the quarter, it had 1.6 million paying digital-only news customers, up 47 percent from a year ago. The company now has a record 3 million total subscribers — to the print paper, the digital version and its crosswords — said CEO Mark Thompson on an earnings call Thursday.

The company is studying the reasons why subscribers have grown to this extent, and Thompson said there are several reasons, but that the news business is in a "very lively" environment because of Trump's "news making" and controversy-causing administration. "There's plenty of kinetic energy in the news cycle," he said, for months and possibly years.

Trump has been a pugnacious critic of the media and has called the Times a "failing" paper and posted on Twitter this weekend that it had "dwindling" subscribers and readers.

Despite the big boost in digital subscribers, who typically sign up at a discounted price, fourth-quarter profit and revenue both fell. The declining print-ad business that has rocked the industry for years, shrinking newsroom staffs, continues to do so.

The newspaper company's fourth-quarter profit fell 28 percent to $37.1 million, or 23 cents per share. Revenue dropped 1.1 percent to $439.7 million.

The company is making more money from customers, thanks to signing up new ones and raising prices on home delivery of the print paper. But ad revenue fell nearly 10 percent.

Print ad revenue tumbled 20 percent, offsetting increases in digital revenue. The company says digital ads are a growing part of its ad sales, 42 percent in the fourth quarter, and it's getting better at selling certain newer types of digital ads, like smartphone ads and advertorial-type ads that look like news stories.

The company expects ad revenues in the current quarter will fall between 5 and 10 percent, while circulation revenue grows 6 percent.

For the year, the company reported profit of $29.1 million, or 18 cents per share, on revenue of $1.56 billion.

New York Times shares added 15 cents to $13.70 in afternoon trading. The stock has climbed nearly 5 percent in the last 12 months

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on NYT at https://www.zacks.com/ap/NYT

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