More than 3 million paid digital-only subscribers. More than 4 million total.
The New York Times Co. announced Thursday that it surpassed those milestones during the third quarter of 2018, when the number of its digital subscribers showed a net increase of roughly 203,000.
That figure represents the highest gain in digital subscribers in a quarter since the so-called Trump bump in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 after the presidential election.
Not all of the new subscribers signed on for news. The Times reported that, of the 203,000 new digital-only subscribers, 143,000 signed on for digital news products, with the remainder paying for the company’s cooking and crossword features.
Perhaps more important to shareholders, the company reported that it continued to be profitable. Net income reached $24.9 million, a 23 percent drop from last year when the publisher realized a one-time gain from the sale of a dam owned by a closed paper mill in which the company has a joint venture investment. Operating profits, the company’s preferred measure, rose 30 percent to $41.4 million in the period.
“This quarter, subscription revenues accounted for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenues,” Mark Thompson, the chief executive and president, said in a news release. “We’re investing aggressively in our journalism, product and marketing and are seeing tangible results in our digital growth.”
Revenue from digital subscriptions rose to $101.2 million in the quarter, an 18 percent increase compared with the same period last year. Online advertising was also a bright spot, jumping 17 percent to $57.8 million.
Digital revenue through the first nine months of the year topped $450 million, the fastest-growing part of the business. The publisher’s biggest quarter typically comes in the last quarter of the year when advertisers spend the most. In 2015, the company announced its ambition to generate $800 million in yearly digital revenue by 2020.
Revenue from print advertising continued to tick downward, decreasing by 0.7 percent compared with the same time period last year. Total advertising revenues increased 7 percent.
All together, revenue increased 8 percent to $417 million. The company also added more revenue from the leasing of four floors of space in its headquarters building after an extensive office renovation.
The Times increased its investments in marketing and the newsroom this quarter, with operating costs increasing to $381 million, compared with $351 million in the quarter last year.
Adjusted operating costs also rose, to $364 million, from $332 million last year, largely owing to higher marketing expenses — the company invested heavily in marketing to bring in new subscribers, increasing spending to more than $40 million, compared with $27 million the same time last year. Other factors included newsroom costs, commercial printing and costs related to the company’s advertising business.
Looking ahead, Thompson expects continued digital subscriber growth in the fourth quarter along with further increases in digital advertising.
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