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October 19, 2014

It's Not Quite Facebook, But Mark Thompson's NYT Can Say "Up"

We’re still taking single digits here, but the single digits — at least for the third quarter — are black, rather than red, at the New York Times Company. That’s a signal change from the first half of the year (“The New York Times: Running in Place“). The first six months weren’t disastrous, but being 1 point down as the Times was in the second quarter tells one story; being 1.8 points up in this quarter shows a a movement in the right direction.

It’s far too early to call it a turnaround, but it’s a step in the right direction.

These are the positives:

  • Reader revenue growth beat back ad revenue loss. That’s the essential math of our time (“The Newsonomics of Zero“), and once publishers get on the good side of zero, the world begins to change. Both in numbers and in confidence
  • The growth part of the business — readers paying — now is getting closer to 60% of the revenue. Much better to have your declining stream — advertising — become a secondary revenue source.
  • National ad growth, though meager, is significant. Different than local newspapers, national is the future of the Times.

The crucial numbers:

TOTAL REVENUES

  • Total revenues up 1.8 percent
  • Percentage of revenues now coming from readers: 56%

AD REVENUES

  • Print ad revenues down 1.6 percent
  • Digital ad revenues down 3.4 percent
  • National advertising up 1.8%, with retail down 15 percent  and classified down 11.8 percent.

READER REVENUES

  • Circulation revenues up 4.8%
  • Total number of digital subscribers: 727,000, up 28% YOY
  • 3rd quarter revenues from digital-only: $37.7 million in the third quarter of 2013, now totaling $110.0 million through the first nine months, up 42.4 percent YOY.

Significantly, this YOY comparison is the Times vs Times, with the Boston Globe (and Worcester Telegram) now sold and their results for the quarter separately reported. Since the New England group had been a mild drag on the Times’ previous reports, that’s part of this move to the black.  The Times now is the company the Times ownership and management wanted: It’s the Times in all its glorious print and digital forms bet on the big, broad, global, digital future. That includes the International Herald Tribune, now a nameplate for the ages, blended into the global Times, a move that I think has long made strategic sense. The Times Company is rightsized for its strategy and for 2014.

The reader revenue strategy is working. Period.

Yet, the first stage of the All-Access and digital sales has plainly plateaued — at a very high level. 727,000 is a great number, but it’s insufficient to fuel stability and growth for the Times. It’s up only 4% over the second quarter. That’s no surprise, but reminds us that the new paid digital products the Times is ready for next spring are badly needed to boost the rockets of reader revenue next year and into 2015-2016.

The digital ad numbers still being down 3.4% are a big issue. Turning that number from red to black is at the top of CEO Mark Thompson’s turnaround strategy.

Lastly, we can point out a tale of two earnings reports this week, the Times and Facebook’s.

 

FACEBOOK

Revenues:    $2B      Growth:   60%  Profit:    $425M

 

NEW YORK TIMES
Revenues:    $361.7M     Growth:   1.8%  Profit:    $12.9M

 

It’s the difference between a hockey stick, and, well, a stick. It’s the reality of the new “media” world, both instructive — and in some ways, besides the point.

 

 

 

 

 

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