Shares of The New York Times Co. rose more than 10 percent to $24.62 a share in midday trading on Thursday, following the company’s report that earnings in the fourth quarter beat estimates. The gains were fueled by gains in digital subscriptions, which helped offset the losses in print advertising.
Total revenue was $484.1 million, compared to $439.6 million in the same quarter last year — representing an increase of just over 10 percent.
According to reports, analysts had estimated a profit of 29 cents a share on revenue of $467.3 million, on average.
Digital advertising revenue rose 8.5 percent in the fourth quarter to $84 million, compared to $78 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, while print advertising revenue fell to $98 million, from $107 million in the same time period, a decrease of 8.4 percent.
Digital subscription revenue rose 51 percent, from $64 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 to $96 million a year later. Total digital subscriptions, which includes stand-alone subscriptions to the Cooking and Crossword products, rose to 2.6 million, from 1.9 million during the same period in 2017.
New York Times president and chief executive officer Mark Thompson said “2017 was a year marked by growth and innovation both in our groundbreaking journalism and in our thriving business. We had our best revenue growth in many years, driven by strong digital subscription revenues, which increased by [more than] $100 million year-over-year. Subscription revenues were [more than] $1 billion in 2017, or 60 percent of the year’s total revenues, and is a clear sign that our subscription-first business model is proving to be an effective way to support our broad journalistic ambitions.”
In remarks to analysts during Thursday’s earnings call, Thompson said that The Times defines itself as a “subscription first” company, and that it is making progress towards the goal, which the company laid out in 2015, of doubling digital revenue to $800 million by 2020.
“As you know, in late 2015 we set ourselves the goal of doubling our pure play digital revenue from just over $400 million, which is what it was in that year, to at least $800 million. We set a timeframe of five years to achieve that goal, with 2016 being the first, and 2020 the last of the five years,” Thompson said. Although he has declined to give progress updates over the past two years due to what he termed “real lumpiness on the advertising side,” he said he was pleased with the progression. “After just two years, we are halfway there. We believe we are scaling our digital revenue more effectively than any other comparable news organization in the world,” he said.
In the call, Thompson touted the Times’ continuing reporting on the Trump administration, as well as the newspaper’s reports on Harvey Weinstein and ensuing stories on sexual harassment allegations across industries.
“Our newsroom and opinion departments did brilliant work, with coverage of the new Trump administration front and center — though the story of the year was not a conventional political one, but the explosive series of revelations about sexual harassment, most notably the allegations of harassment leveled at Harvey Weinstein, which set off a national and global firestorm of reaction which continues unabated to this day,” he said.