The New York Times Tops 7.8 Million Subscribers as Growth Slows

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The increase is also tied to The Times’s trove of first-party data. The company can harness its database of subscribers to target ads. That means it doesn’t rely on third-party tracking software, which has fallen out of favor as privacy concerns mount. Apple, for example, just updated its software to make it harder to track users across apps on its iPhones, a change that does not affect The Times’s ad business.

Operating costs rose slightly, to $421.4 million, an increase of a little more than 1 percent over last year. The company spent less on travel and entertainment expenses because of the pandemic, but it has hired more people. General and administrative costs rose 7 percent, to $56.6 million.

For the current quarter, The Times expects subscription revenues to increase 15 percent from last year. Revenue from digital subscribers is likely to rise 30 percent, the company said. That would be a slowdown from 2020, when The Times had a sharp gain in readership. It was one of the heaviest news cycles in recent memory, as the country was battered by the coronavirus pandemic, saw the rise of a social justice movement after the killing of George Floyd and voted in a hotly contested presidential election.

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On an investor call after the earnings announcement, Ms. Levien said 2020 was a year that saw “unprecedented demand for Times journalism.” This year’s subscriber growth will therefore be relatively lower. At the same time, “we are very confident there’s wide interest in news,” she added. “I don’t think the world is getting any less interesting. I don’t think it’s getting any less complex.”

Advertising is expected to pick up mightily. The company estimates a 55 percent to 60 percent jump from last year, when ad spending was severely curtailed because of the pandemic. Digital advertising is likely to rise even more, at 70 percent to 75 percent.

Costs are also expected to increase as the company plans to spend more marketing dollars to attract new subscribers. Capital spending should reach as much as $50 million this quarter.

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The company has gotten bigger as it invests in podcasts, television and film development. Total audio listeners, including for “The Daily,” grew 30 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, largely from the addition of new podcasts.

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