Digital subscriptions up 11 percent at New York Times company, but revenue slips

The New York Times Company | Financial Times
Digital subscriptions to The New York Times Company rose 11 percent over the second quarter, to 592,000, the company announced in its third-quarter earnings report Thursday. That breaks down to 566,000 subscribers for NYTimes.com and the International Herald Tribune, with 26,000 digital subscribers to The Boston Globe.

Circulation revenue was up 7.4 percent over the third quarter of 2011, as the company predicted in its second-quarter report, when it said to expect an “increase in the mid- to high-single digits” in the third quarter. In contrast, advertising revenues were down 8.9 percent. Print revenues were down 10.9 percent, while digital advertising revenue dropped 2.2 percent.

Over all, revenue was down less than a percentage point over the same period in 2011, to $449 million.

Revenue from digital advertising accounted for 24.4 percent of Times Co. advertising revenues in the third quarter, up from 22.8 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

In March, The Times “moved the gate” on its metered paywall, limiting readers to 10 free articles per month rather than the 20 they’d previously been allowed. The Times also announced an increase in home delivery rates in January; the report says that rise, plus digital subscription revenue, “offset a decline in print copies sold.”

In its most recent report to the Audit Bureau of Circulations in March, The Times had average print circulation of 1,265,839 on Sundays and 779,731 daily (Monday through Friday). The Globe had average Sunday print circulation of 343,194 and average daily circulation of 195,947. The next ABC report is due Oct. 30.

Over the past year, the Times Company has sold its stakes in the Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, as well as About.com. Last December, Times Co. sold its Regional Newspaper Group.

How are things at the Boston Globe?

The drumbeat of asset sales has some investors focused on the company’s New England Media Group, which operates The Boston Globe and the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette. Advertising and circulation revenue were both down at the New England group, though “other revenue,” including its commercial printing business, was up nearly 19 percent.

The Globe’s circulation revenue has risen since it introduced its paywall in September and introduced BostonGlobe.com, a more newspaper-like, premium companion to Boston.com. Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson reported Wednesday on some of the Globe’s attempts to diversify its revenue — starting an Internet-only alt-rock station for example, and expanding hyperlocal coverage. The company’s “two-site strategy has pulled in 14 per cent more of the 18- to 44-year-old readers advertisers crave,” Globe publisher Chris Mayer told Edgecliffe-Johnson.

Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst, says he will watch third-quarter earnings “to see if the Globe’s all-access circulation push is coming close to making up for its ad loss”, as has been seen at the New York Times itself.

The Globe’s digital and print subscription combo did not compensate for the loss of advertising revenue, though the two are close: Circulation accounted for $40,128,000 in the third quarter at the New England operations; advertising brought in $41,761,000.

The Mark Thompson situation

The Times Co. named former BBC director general Mark Thompson as its new CEO this past August. Both parties expect him to assume the role next month. But Thompson’s role in a growing scandal over the BBC’s handling of sexual-abuse allegations about one of its stars, Jimmy Savile, has clouded his imminent arrival.

In an interview with the Guardian Wednesday, Thompson said he could not recall exactly when he first heard about a BBC news program that was investigating Savile, and that he’d missed news that it had killed the segment because “There are about 150 pages of press cuttings about the BBC every day.” Thompson told Dan Sabbagh he’d “first became aware of the gravity of the allegations against Savile,” as Sabbagh puts it, when the British commercial station ITV announced it would air a documentary about Savile, who died last October.

Thompson said Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan was “completely correct” to say The Times should report this story and investigate Thompson’s role “thoroughly.”

The company will host a conference call at 11 a.m. ET.

Previously: New York Times 1st quarter earnings beat expectations | New York Times Co. increases digital subscriptions by 13 percent in second quarter

Related: Are paywalls why newspaper company stocks have done well over the past year? (Ebyline)

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