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Subscription gains help NY Times weather ad slump

The New York Times said gains in digital subscriptions helped offset weakness in advertising related to pandemic-induced economic turmoil (AFP Photo/Alastair Pike)
The New York Times said gains in digital subscriptions helped offset weakness in advertising related to pandemic-induced economic turmoil (AFP Photo/Alastair Pike)

New York (AFP) - The New York Times on Wednesday reported strong gains in its digital subscriptions, helping the newspaper weather a big decline in advertising revenue.

The prestigious daily said profit in the second quarter dipped six percent to $23.7 million, while revenues declined 7.5 percent to $404 million.

The newspaper added some 669,000 online subscribers in the quarter including 493,000 for its core news product.

That brought the number of digital-only subscriptions to 5.7 million and total subscriptions to 6.5 million, putting the newspaper on track to its goal of 10 million subscribers.

"We've proven that it's possible to create a virtuous circle in which whole-hearted investment in high quality journalism drives deep audience engagement which in turn drives revenue growth and further investment capacity," said outgoing chief executive Mark Thompson.

"This is why our newsroom is growing when so many others are being reduced."

The New York Times Co. announced last month Meredith Kopit Levien would take over as new president and chief executive from Thompson, who held the job for eight years and led the daily's digital transformation.

Kopit Levien, 49, has been chief operating officer since June 2017, a role in which she led digital product efforts, according to the company.

"As I turn over the reins on September 8 to Meredith Kopit Levien, I do so with every confidence that The Times will continue to lead the way in showing that people will pay for accurate, trustworthy news, and that there is a sustainable future for deeply-reported, mission-driven journalism," Thompson said.

The latest quarter results showed a sharp 44 percent drop in ad revenues, attributed to lower demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and related economic turmoil.

Subscription revenue increased 8.4 percent, and accounted for more than 70 percent of receipts at the Times, in line with the strategy to reduce dependence on advertising.

Thompson said that "for the first time in our history total digital revenue exceeded print revenue -- a key milestone in the transformation of The New York Times."