New York Times Co.

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9 takeways from the New York Times Co. 3rd quarter earnings call

The New York Times building in this 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New York Times building in this 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New York Times Co. joined McClatchy yesterday in booking a rare operating loss for the third quarter, $9 million or about 2.5 percent on revenues of $364.7 million.

But the many moving parts of the Times digital transformation effort had a number of positives mixed in as well. Here are nine takeaways:

  1. About that loss. It was driven by high costs associated with staff reductions ($20 million) and investment in new products. The first will be a one-time blip. But the Times will be launching and relaunching new digital versions for some time to come. Each is expensive to develop and market, and significant new revenues may be slow in coming.
  2. Equilibrium in ad and circulation revenues. A 17 percent year-to-year gain in digital advertising for the quarter roughly offset a 5 percent decline in print. Similarly revenue from a net gain of 44,000 digital-only subscribers offset revenue losses for print and print-digital subscriptions. That’s an achievement. On the ad side, most of the industry is not yet growing digital and other revenue fast enough to cover print ad losses — and Times execs, in a conference call with analysts, concede that they don’t expect to do so again in the fourth quarter.
  3. Room to grow digital audience. The 44,000 quarter-to-quarter gain, the largest the company has recorded in several years, CEO Mark Thompson said, came mainly from new international customers and the “consumer education” sector (i.e. discounted subs to students). Thompson said that with improved marketing abroad he expects to continue growing that group of subscribers.
  4. Too expensive? The Times has raised print subscription prices this year, but the higher revenue per customer, chief financial officer James Follo said, was “outweighed by volume declines.” Daily print circulation was off 5.2 percent year-to-year and Sunday 3.2 percent. With the cost of a seven-day print subscription outside the New York metro area inching close to $1,000 a year, the Times may find renewals, new subscriptions (and newsstand copies) a tougher sell — especially as a range of much cheaper digital options are available.
  5. About those executive changes. Thompson had little to add to the announcement earlier this week that 26-year veteran Denise Warren was leaving the company after her chief digital officer job was split in two. But he did drop a hint, saying the Times would be looking for “an injection of specialized digital expertise.” Warren was an experienced and talented generalist who moved from overseeing advertising to the successful completion of the Times paywall strategy. But deeper digital roots may be needed in the executive suite for the next round of growth.
  6. Women in leadership. Warren’s is the third high-level executive departure in three years, following the firings of Thompson’s predecessor as CEO, Janet Robinson in December 2011, and Executive Editor Jill Abramson this May. The Times did add a woman in its top advertising job, hiring Meredith Kopit Levien away from Forbes in July 2013.
  7. Mobile advertising progress. Kopit Levien said mobile advertising is finally gaining some traction, accounting for about 10 percent of digital ad revenue. On the other hand it lags mobile audience which now accounts for more than 50 percent of the digital visits to Times’ sites and apps.
  8. Newsroom hiring. Thompson said he expected a modest wave of hiring following the well-publicized downsizing by 100 jobs. But as at many publications, the newly hired will have different job duties like audience development rather than traditional reporting and editing roles.
  9. Lower revenue per customer. Several questions and answers in the earnings conference call focused on so-called ARPU, jargon for average revenue per user (or unit). With the changing product mix, ARPU is falling at the Times, though Follo said by only about 5 percent year-to-year.

That spotlights a huge financial challenge for the industry. As business moves down the price chain (both ads and circulation) from print to desktop/laptop to smartphone, a company can end up running fast just to stay even in revenues. And that’s likely to persist for years not just quarters.

New York Times shares traded down about 5 percent at market close. Read more

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Reporter declines to reapply for her job, gets laid off

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Reporter declines to reapply for her job, gets laid off Burlington Free Press reporter Lynn Monty decided not to consummate the process of reapplying for her job last week. The Free Press, like many other Gannett papers, has asked staffers to reapply for jobs in reimagined “newsrooms of the future.” “I loved my job, but I don’t love Gannett,” Monty tells Paul Heintz. “I will make a new way for myself that doesn’t compromise my integrity.” (Seven Days)
  2. The last circulation report The Alliance for Audited Media will release its final print Snapshot report today. Because of more rule changes, “we advise against comparing year-over-year data,” AAM cautions. (AAM) | I wrote last October about how some other recent rules made comparisons difficult. (Poynter)
  3. Two attempts to explain why your friend Gordon is blue over the Jian Ghomeshi mess Canadians have an ” intrinsic and profound” relationship with the CBC, and the scandal further diminishes the institution, Adam Sternbergh writes. (Vulture) | “[T]here was once a hope that people in powerful positions were trying their best to do well by the country,” Michelle Dean writes. “That is gone, and people are, I think, sad to see that they now must extend the cynicism and bad feelings to cultural figures as well.” (Gawker)
  4. John Cantlie “reports” for Islamic State The captured British journalist appears in a package purporting to be from Kobani. (The Telegraph)
  5. The dream of an iTunes for news will never die The New York Times Co. and Axel Springer led a funding round for Blendle, a Dutch startup that sells a la carte access to articles. (Gigaom) | Blendle cofounder Alexander Klöpping “says he’s in talks with U.S. publishers (he declined to name any), which tend to have few foreign subscribers and sell ads at junk rates in countries where they don’t have a sales force.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)
  6. Reporting under duress The International Women’s Media Foundation gave Solange Lusiku Nsimire, editor-in-chief of Congo’s Le Souverain, a Courage in Journalism award last week. “I want to find shelter for my children, who are very much at risk,” she tells Eleanor Klibanoff. “But as long as democracy is not established and human rights are not respected, I feel that I need to continue reporting.” (NPR) | Related: New CPJ report shows journalists are still being killed with impunity in most parts of the world. (Poynter) | Also related: At a White House Correspondents’ Association seminar Saturday, Susan Page called the Obama administration “‘more dangerous’ to the press than any other in history.” (WP) | Also related: An Israeli border policeman shot AP photographer Majdi Mohammed with rubber bullets. (AP)
  7. FBI made a fake newspaper article “The FBI in Seattle created a fake news story on a bogus Seattle Times Web page to plant software in the computer of a suspect in a series of bomb threats to Lacey’s Timberline High School in 2007.” (Seattle Times)
  8. Papa’s peepin’ peeps The annual Spy Prom in D.C. honored Ernest Hemingway. (HuffPost) | Related: Hemingway got a Nobel on this day in 1954. (Poynter)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare The New York Daily News uses wordplay to challenge Obama’s Ebola czar.

    NYDN-10282014  

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Sarah Lumbard is now senior digital curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Institute of Holocaust Education. Previously, she was vice president of content strategy and operations at NPR. (Poynter) | Fred Santarpia will be executive vice president and chief digital officer at Condé Nast. Previously, he was executive vice president at Condé Nast Entertainment. (Poynter) | Hassan Hamdani is editor-in-chief at HuffPost Morocco. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of TelQuel’s multimedia division. (HuffPost) | Bernardo Chévez is now vice president of technology at Hearst Magazines International. Previously, he was director of engineering at Condé Nast. (Fishbowl NY) | Job of the day: The Washington Post is looking for an editorial copy editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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Ad revenue rises at New York Times Co.

The New York Times Company | The New York Times

Advertising and circulation revenue rose at The New York Times Company in the first quarter of 2014. Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson said in an earnings release that while the company is “pleased with this result,” it is “certainly not claiming victory in advertising yet.” Both digital and print advertising revenue rose, for a combined total that was 3.4 percent higher than the same period in 2013.

The Times’ native advertising product, Paid Posts, “launched very successfully” during this quarter, Thompson said.

The company says it now has about 799,000 digital-only subscribers, an increase of 39,000 over the first quarter of 2013. Circulation revenues were up 2.1 percent. It expects circulation revenue “to increase in the low-single digits in the second quarter of 2014″ over the same period in 2013.

The company’s operating costs went up 3.8 percent, “mainly due to higher compensation and benefits expenses associated with the strategic growth initiatives as well as higher retirement costs,” the earnings report says.

Earlier this month the Times introduced two new tiers of subscriptions: A no-frills product, where readers get access to some stories via an app called NYT Now, and a high end one that promises “the highest level of connection with The New York Times.” It launched a news startup, The Upshot, this week.

Regarding the new products, Thompson said he is “pleased with the reception thus far and by the continued strength of our core digital subscription packages, which grew by 18% year-over-year in Q1.” Read more

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New York Times will launch new subscription products April 2

The New York Times plans to launch two new subscription products on April 2: NYT Now, a standalone iOS app that costs $8 a month, and Times Premier, which the company describes as a “premium subscription service designed for The Times enthusiast.”

NYT Now — which you can also access if you have a traditional digital and/or home delivery subscription — presents readers with what its lead editor, Clifford Levy, called “the most important and compelling stories from The New York Times over the course of the day,” and it will also serve up stories from other sections, depending on the time of day you look at the app. A screen called “Our Picks” takes readers to stories at other outlets, or sometimes to older New York Times stories. (The Times has no plans yet to build an Android version. “Our first step is launching on iPhone,” Times spokesperson Linda Zebian writes in an email.)

“We’re basically curating the Web so you don’t have to,” said Levy. “This has been an enormous hit with the people who’ve tested the app.” NYT Now has its own editorial staff of about 15-20, a newsroom within the newsroom, and Levy said he’s asked editors and reporters throughout the Times to send suggested links. Outsiders who have tested the app “have told us they’re going to Twitter and Facebook less because they have this,” he said.

“We think it just enhances our relationship with the reader,” said Times Co. Executive Vice President Denise Warren, who oversees the company’s digital products, in another phone call. With so much content banging around, “Who better to go to for some judgment than The New York Times?”

The Times isn’t just sharing links to be nice. Mobile news apps “are largely a morning idiom,” Levy said. Although about half the Times’ traffic comes through mobile now, “in the normal news day it’s hard to get people to come to news apps in the afternoon and evening,” he said. In testing, they found that later in the day, people came back to the app to check out the curation feed.

NYT Now aims to be more than just a news reader, Levy said. “We want our readers to feel like this app really knows them, really knows the rhythms of their day.” The app greets you with a briefing that says, “Good morning.”

“I know it sounds relatively trivial,” Levy said, but many testers told him, “Wow, The New York Times has never talked to me like that before.” Some content on the app will take a more conversational tone, while hard news will not. But the story feed — which Levy said would use the “well,” or center of the Times homepage, as a guide for story selection — offers some other ways in to content. Some stories have bullet-point summaries.

Other “cards” on the app’s feed present longer reads at various times of day: A “lunchtime read” and a “nice lean-back read” at night. Those are displayed with an estimate of how long they’ll take to get through. The Times worked with Apple to time those pieces to an iPhone’s internal clock — if you live in Honolulu, you won’t get the lunchtime read as you bumble your phone off your bedside table.

There’s not much customization available on the app right now. “We would love to make all of our products more personalized,” Warren said. “Right now this is how we’re launching; we want to get it in the marketplace.” Levy said the ability to save stories for later is a kind of customization. The company will collect data on how people use the app and adapt as necessary, he said.

Non-subscribers can view 10 articles per month on the app, the same number of stories they can see on nytimes.com. “We just thought we should be consistent,” Warren said. “You have to start somewhere.” Should they look at the Times’ website on another platform, NYT Now subscribers will also see a special icon next to stories unlocked on the app that means they can read them.

The only advertising on NYT Now will be “Paid Posts,” the Times’ native advertising units.

So what about Times Premier?

Times Premier is for “our current loyalists, the people who want the highest level of connection with The New York Times,” Warren said. It will cost $45 per four-week period or an additional $10 on top of a home-delivery subscription. Some of the stuff you get for $585/year:

  • “Times Insider,” a behind-the-curtain feature about the company’s journalism edited by Dave Smith. When I mentioned to Warren that some of us outside the Times kind of enjoy doing those stories from time to time, she laughed and said, “Competition is good!”
  • Family access, which lets you share your account with two family members. Current subscribers may have received a notice they can share their subscription with another family member, something for which Warren said “I don’t think we’ve done the best job marketing.” People don’t want to share their passwords, she said. This is better for them.
  • Some premium bennies like two free e-books per month, reserved seating at Times events and a special pack of crosswords.

More curation

The Times is also launching a twice-weekly email roundup called “What We’re Reading” that sends links to off-site articles chosen by Times people like David Carr and Jodi Kantor. “Curation is kind of a theme for us,” Warren said. “We think that will add a lot of value to subscription bundles.” Read more

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Lighted globes mark the loading docks of the New York Times building, Monday Jan. 23, 2005. Newspaper publisher New York Times Co. reports earnings for the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The Times, which also owns the Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune, said in December it expects fourth-quarter earnings of 45 cents to 47 cents per share, sharply below year-ago profit of 75 cents, due to the difficult advertising environment. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

New York Times digital subscriptions grew 19% in 2013

The New York Times Company | The New York Times

The number of digital subscriptions to New York Times Company products grew from 640,000 at the end of 2012 to 760,000 at the end of 2013, a gain of nearly 19 percent. Revenue from circulation was up about 4 percent over the previous year, the company’s year-end earnings report says.

Print advertising revenue was down 7 percent for the year, and digital advertising fell a little more than 4 percent over 2012. Over all, advertising revenue was down a little more than 6 percent.

Other revenue, which the company says includes “news services/syndication, digital archives, rental income and conferences/events,” dropped 2.5 percent.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, circulation revenue was down about 4 percent and ad revenue was down about 6 percent. Read more

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New York Times’ corporate site gets a data-filled makeover

On Tuesday, the first edition of the International New York Times debuted. The day before, the Times’ parent company’s website also got a fresh face.

On nytco.com, you’ll now see changing points of data over images from New York City, Paris and Hong Kong, as well as the company’s printing facility in College Point, Queens.

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New York Times Co. pays dividend for first time since 2008

The New York Times | The New York Times Co. | Bloomberg News

The New York Times Co. will pay shareholders a four-cent-per-share dividend next month, the company announced Thursday. It’s the first time since the end of 2008 that the company has made such a payment to its shareholders, Christine Haughney reports.

The dividend “will allow us to return capital to our shareholders while maintaining the financial flexibility necessary to continue to invest in the company’s transformation and various growth initiatives,” Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement.

Members of the Ochs/Sulzberger family, who control ownership of the Times via one class of stock, have pushed for dividends to resume, Edmund Lee reports: “If the dividend remains at 4 cents a share, the family’s 13 percent stake in the company would give it $774,163 each quarter, or $3.1 million annually from the dividends.” Read more

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Mark Thompson: Keeping Nate Silver at NYT was not ‘an overwhelming priority’

New York

Joe Hagan’s look at New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson’s tenure so far contains many, many tweetable and chewable moments for New York Times obsessives — his presence in the newsroom “was like a belch in a cathedral nave,” for instance, and Sam Sifton was moved from the national desk to create an online magazine “inspired by the corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co.”

But perhaps the most intriguing nugget is that Nate Silver decided to leave the Times “because he felt it was Thompson who had not committed to building his franchise.”

For [Executive Editor Jill] Abramson, Silver was a tentpole attraction for her favorite subject, national politics, and brought the kind of buzz she thought valuable. In an interview, Thompson confirmed that keeping Silver was not at the top of his agenda: “I would not say it was an overwhelming priority,” he says. “During the election period, he was obviously a very significant figure. Off-season, it’s a slightly different story.”

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New York Times website was down Wednesday

The New York Times’ website went down Wednesday morning. It went back up in the afternoon but service was intermittent. Poynter makes no representation about the availability of the site. Both the main Times site and the New York Times Co.’s corporate site were “experiencing a major cyber attack,” Matt Egan and Jennifer Booton report on Fox Business. “Our web site is down and we believe the outage is the result of an internal issue that we’re working on resolving,” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy tells Poynter in an email.

While the site was down, the Times posted an article about Egypt to Facebook.

The Wall Street Journal announced on Twitter it would drop its paywall for two hours:

Twitter is also the place to go for jokes about the Times’ site being down: Read more

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Sulzberger: ‘The New York Times is not for sale’

The New York Times | Politico | New York

The Times is not for sale,” New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday evening. “Wednesday’s statement was released shortly after Mr. Sulzberger held a closed-door meeting with family members,” Christine Haughney reports.

Dylan Byers has the whole memo, which follows increasing speculation that the Sulzberger-Ochs family might be tempted to follow the lead of the Washington, D.C. Graham family and sell their newspaper. Read more

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