Each time The New York Times's earnings come out, the journalism world holds its breath, wondering how the paper of record is faring in these digital times. It's that time of year again, and today's diagnosis revealed the Gray Lady hasn't kicked her malaise—ad revenue is down for the 11th straight quarter. But the good news is that more people are paying for access to The Times.
Let's start with the good news—people will pay for quality reportage and commentary. The number of paid subscribers for the company's papers' digital-only subscriptions is way up. There are currently around 699,000 digital subscriptions for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune—an increase of 35 percent compared to last year. Also encouraging is a resurgence of The Boston Globe digital subscriptions, which saw a 70 percent increase over last year, putting the number of digital subscribers at 39,000. Some of those, surely, are thanks to the excellent job that the paper did in covering the Boston Marathon bombing.
Said Mark Thompson, the company's chief executive, “Our improved results in the second quarter were an organization-wide effort – with contributions from more favorable revenue trends and strong cost performance. The increase in operating profit reflects the ongoing evolution of our digital subscription initiatives on the circulation side, the moderation of revenue declines on the advertising side and the continued focus on managing costs."
The not-so-great news is that ad revenue was down again, falling by 5.8 percent. Specifically, print advertising revenue is down 6.8 percent and digital ad revenue is down 2.7 percent compared to last year. And this marks the 11th straight quarter of ad revenue slippage, and another quarter in which circulation goes up and ad revenue goes down. But despite those slips, profits were at $53.4 million up from $44.1 million this period of time in 2012. And the company reported net income of $20.1 million, which is better compared to the loss of $87.6 million last year's second quarter.
Getting ad revenue to stabilize seems to be the most important goal for the company, considering it is showing nice momentum in gaining readership. The obvious question for media-gazers and people within The Times organization is when will this happen. We'll get back to you in four months.