Wired magazine did a profile on The New York Times in its this month’s issue. Talking about the paper’s transition from print to more digital-focus than ever, author Gabriel Snyder wrote, “It’s to transform the Times’ digital subscriptions into the main engine of a billion-dollar business, one that could pay to put reporters on the ground in 174 countries even if (OK, when) the printing presses stop forever.” Veteran journalist Om Malik analyzes the numbers: -> The company reported revenue of nearly $1.6 billion in 2016 — remarkably consistent with prior years. -> Print advertising revenue dipped by $70 million year-over-year to $327 million in 2016. -> Digital advertising revenue, while a meaningful portion of the Times’ revenue, did not grow enough to offset vanishing print ad dollars. -> Total digital ad revenue in 2016 was $206 million, up only 6% from the prior year. -> The key revenue driver for the New York Times has been its digital subscription business, which added more than half a million paid subscribers in 2016. Thanks in part to interest around the presidential election, the newspaper added 276,000 new digital subscribers in Q4, the single largest quarterly increase since 2011 (the year the pay model was launched). The Times’ digital success is hinged upon two major drivers: affiliate revenues from services like the Wirecutter and digital subscriptions. Advertising might be a good short term bandaid, but the company needs to focus on how to evolve away from it even more aggressively. The Times needs to simplify their sign-up experience and make it easier for people to pay for the subscriptions. As of now, it is like the sound you hear when scratching your nails on a piece of glass.
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