Wednesday 6 May 2020 2:25 pm

New York Times hits 6m subscribers but warns of advertising slump

The New York Times has posted a record rise in new subscribers for the first quarter but warned of a slump in advertising revenue caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The newspaper added 587,000 new digital subscriptions in the first three months of the year, taking its total to more than 6m across digital and print.

Read more: New York Times shares hit record high as it adds 1m digital subscribers

Total revenue for the first quarter ticked up one per cent to $444m (£358m), driven by the rising demand for its digital offering, which includes the company’s cooking, crossword and audio products as well as its news output.

However, advertising revenue dropped 15 per cent over the period, and the New York Times warned this could extend to a decline of between 50 and 55 per cent in the second quarter.

This revenue decline, combined with increased costs, pushed operating profit down more than 20 per cent to $27.3m in the first quarter.

“The Times’s business model, with its growing focus on digital subscription growth and diminishing reliance on advertising, is very well positioned to ride out this storm and thrive in a post-pandemic world,” said Mark Thompson, president and chief executive of the New York Times Company.

“We’ve seen historic audience levels and an unprecedented rate of subscriber growth as well as real pressure on advertising revenue.”

The media group has looked to offset declines in its print business by focusing efforts on its digital offering. The newspaper added more than 1m digital subscribers in 2019 — a record year for the company.

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It has also benefitted from a rise in traffic amid soaring demand for news during the coronavirus campaign. The digital subscription growth comes despite the fact that the paper has made its Covid-19 coverage free to read.

The Times, which was this week awarded three Pulitzer prizes for its reporting, said it expected digital-only subscription growth in the high twenties in the second quarter.