New York Times Names Meredith Kopit Levien as Next CEO
(Bloomberg) -- New York Times Co. named Meredith Kopit Levien as its next chief executive officer, trusting her to continue the digital success that the newspaper has enjoyed under Mark Thompson.
Kopit Levien, 49, takes over the top job Sept. 8. Thompson, who’s about to turn 63, said in a statement that he chose this moment to step down “because we have achieved everything I set out to do when I joined the Times Company eight years ago.”
Bloomberg News reported in February that Kopit Levien, now the chief operating officer, was the front-runner to succeed Thompson.
Though President Donald Trump needles the paper as “the failing New York Times,” Thompson and Kopit Levien have overseen a period of robust growth as the Times has emphasized digital products and subscription revenue, rather than relying on ad sales.
The paper added 587,000 online and mobile subscribers in the first quarter of this year alone, the most in its history. Times stock is up 42% this year, far outpacing the S&P 500 and such plummeting newspaper peers as Gannett Co. and Tribune Publishing Co.
There has been recent turmoil in the Times newsroom. James Bennet, the editorial-page editor who had been seen as a potential executive editor, left in June after an op-ed column by Senator Tom Cotton on using the military against protesters drew criticism inside and outside the paper. Bari Weiss, an opinion editor, quit this month after saying colleagues had harassed her over her political views.
Kopit Levien joined the Times in 2013 as head of advertising, rising to chief revenue officer in 2015 and chief operating officer in 2017. She previously worked for Forbes. Kopit Levien will be the second female CEO at the Times; Janet Robinson held the job for seven years before she was pushed out in 2011 after a difficult period for the paper’s performance.
Thompson joined the Times in 2012 after serving as director general of the British Broadcasting Co.
In February 2019, Thompson set a goal for the Times to reach 10 million subscribers by 2025. It had about 4.3 million subscribers at the time.
“A lot of people thought that was a crazy goal,” Thompson said in an interview Wednesday. “It looks a bit unambitious now given what’s happened.”
Thompson said the Times still has room to add subscribers in the U.S. and has seen an uptick in customers in the Midwest and South, particularly in Ohio and Texas. He expects the Times will hit its goal of 10 million subscribers well before 2025.
Investing in Journalism
A key to that subscriber growth has been investing in journalism at a time when many newspapers have scaled back under financial pressure, he said. The Times newsroom now has about 1,750 people, and the company plans to hire 100 software engineers this year to work on various products, he said.
The company, however, expects advertising in the second quarter to fall 50% to 55% from a year ago as marketers pull back spending during the pandemic. Last month, the Times laid off nearly 70 people, largely in ad sales, Axios reported.
“We’re constantly hiring but also letting people go and downsizing parts of the organization as the business changes,” Thompson said. “What I don’t expect is large-scale general layoffs.”
The Times entered several new businesses during Thompson’s tenure, including television programming. One of those new ventures, podcasting, will likely become another one of the Times’ subscription products, along with online recipes and crossword puzzles, Thompson said.
Thompson said the Times is still looking to make acquisitions in the podcasting space, as it did in March by acquiring Audm, a startup that takes long-form articles and turns them into audio.
Thompson said he hopes his tenure at the Times will be remembered for “proving there are millions of people who care passionately about high-quality news and are willing to pay for it.”
“I think we’ve turned the corner in our confidence in sustaining our model,” he said.
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