New York Times Says Digital Signups Still Soaring

(Bloomberg) -- New York Times Co. has signed more than 200,000 new digital subscribers in the fourth quarter and hasn’t seen any lull since the election.

Digital revenue for the newspaper publisher is approaching $500 million a year, Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson said Monday at an investor conference.

The hotly contested U.S. presidential election has led to a surge in subscriptions. The interest is giving the company the opportunity to reach younger readers, according to Thompson, who sees the potential to reach 10 million new digital subscribers. Online-only subscriptions totaled 1.56 million at the end of the third quarter, while digital ad sales increased 21 percent from a year earlier, according to the company.

The shares closed up 3.1 percent to $13.20, their highest price in almost a year.

The Times is facing the same pressures as the rest of the industry. As readers get more of their news online, print-newspaper advertising is expected to shrink to $5 billion by 2019 from a peak of $49 billion in 2005, according to the ad agency Magna Global. Yet that erosion of a once-lucrative business isn’t hurting the company’s bottom line as much anymore.

Print advertising once accounted for 80 percent of the Times’ revenue; in the most recent quarter, it was 22 percent, Thompson said during an Bloomberg Television interview Monday.

“Digital advertising will overtake print advertising,” Thompson said. Print ads are “not even crucial to our print business,” which can sustain itself purely with subscriptions.

Thompson also said he sees room for more cost-cutting and new investments. Like other newspapers, the company has reduced expenses because of falling print advertising. The Times offered buyouts to some employees in May.