October 2, 2022

Optimism for Digital Plan, But Times Co. Posts Loss

The New York Times Company reported on Thursday that nearly a quarter of a million people had purchased subscriptions to The Times website, a sign that its digital strategy was paying off so far.

Since March, when The Times introduced its model to charge online readers, The Times has signed up 224,000 paying subscribers to NYTimes.com, in addition to 57,000 others who pay to receive The Times on e-readers like the Barnes Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle.

As the introductory rate expires and more customers begin paying the full price, which starts at $15 every four weeks, The Times expects to see more of a benefit to its bottom line.

“The digital subscription model is a long-term effort, and its full impact on revenues will be more evident over the course of the year as we progress past the early stages of the plan,” said Janet L. Robinson, the chief executive.

Ms. Robinson added that the digital subscriptions would provide the company “with a significant new revenue stream in the second half of this year.”

The announcement came on the same day as the company’s quarterly earnings report. The company said it had a net loss of $119.7 million in the second quarter, in part because of a noncash write-down of $161.3 million to reflect the declining value of its regional newspapers.

Earlier this month the company sold more than half of its minority ownership in the Boston Red Sox and several other sports properties, raising $117 million before taxes. And last week it announced plans to pay back a $250 million loan from Carlos Slim Helú, a Mexican telecommunications billionaire, on Aug. 15, three and a half years ahead of schedule.

Over all, Wall Street analysts and investors reacted with optimism, pushing the company’s stock price up nearly 2 percent in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares closed at $9.14.

But the second quarter also showed how challenged the print advertising market remained. Revenue declined 2.2 percent, to $576.7 million from $589.6 million, in large part because of a 4 percent decrease in advertising. The company said a 2.6 percent increase in online advertising revenue partly offset a 6.4 percent decline in print advertising. At the News Media Group, digital advertising rose 15.5 percent, a sign that charging readers for access to NYTimes.com was not discouraging advertisers.

Operating costs declined by nearly 1 percent, to $525.2 million in the quarter, the company said.

Home delivery orders also ticked up, helping to slow the rate of decline in print circulation revenue. Over all, the company’s circulation revenue for the quarter was flat at $234.9 million, reflecting the print declines and the introductory 99-cent rate for the first month of digital subscriptions. Circulation revenue was up 1.6 percent at The New York Times Media Group, but down 5.4 percent at the New England Media Group, which includes The Boston Globe, and down 1.7 percent at the regional papers.

Excluding one-time items like the write-down and severance costs, the company’s operating profit in the quarter was $82.9 million, compared with $92.6 million in the period a year earlier. On a per-share basis, the net loss translated into 81 cents, in contrast to a profit of 21 cents a share, or $32 million, in the period a year earlier.

The company cautioned that advertising would remain soft in the third quarter, but said it expected moderate increases in circulation revenue and declining operating costs.

Alexia S. Quadrani, a stock analyst with J. P. Morgan, called the second quarter results “good” and said that despite the declining print ad market, there were reasons for optimism in the third quarter.

“Any adjustments to print advertising will likely be offset by better circulation trends from the digital initiatives and improved profitability, which when combined with lower interest expense from the prepayment of the Carlos Slim notes, should have a positive impact,” she said in a note to investors.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=106af09d3addc7d7f0a2192526bdbfa1

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