May 3, 2017

The more The New York Times gets trashed by President Trump, the more its subscriptions seem to surge.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported the addition of 308,000 net digital subscribers in the first quarter of 2017, the most of any quarter in the newspaper’s history, pushing it past the 2 million subscriber mark. Subscriptions to the company’s news products fall just shy of 2 million, according to the company, because the total number includes subscribers to the company’s crossword product.

Still, the numbers belie the charge, issued again over the weekend by President Trump, that The New York Times is “totally failing.”

“Digital advertising revenue grew 19 percent year-over-year, a vindication of our decision to pivot towards mobile, branded content and a broader suite of marketing services, and to focus on innovation,” president and chief executive officer Mark Thompson said in a statement. “Despite continued pressure on print advertising, we were able to grow overall revenues by five percent in the quarter.”

Thompson has set a goal of eventually reaching 10 million subscribers, and the company plans to double its total digital revenue by 2020.

The growth in digital subscribers pushed The Times’ helped The Times grow its total revenues by 5.1 percent, offsetting a 6.8 percent decline in advertising revenue. Operating costs were also up slightly, resulting in an overall profit of $29 million.

The market responded favorably to today’s news. Shares of The New York Times Company were up 10.49 percent in early afternoon trading.

Despite the good news, the newsroom is still bracing for long-planned staff cuts, according to a writeup from The New York Times. And its print revenue fell by 17.9 percent, on par with the decreases reported by Gannett late last month.

Some highlights from this morning’s earnings call with investors:

The success of The New York Times’ subscription business, while encouraging for major international newspapers, is harder to replicate among companies that serve regional and local audiences.

Gannett reported an 8 percent decrease in circulation and a 10.7 percent decrease in total revenues in the first quarter of 2017, numbers that doesn’t bode well for its local counterparts.

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Benjamin Mullin was formerly the managing editor of He also previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow,…
Benjamin Mullin

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