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NY Times Ad Revenue Fell 26% Last Year While Subscriptions Topped 7.5 Million

Overall revenue was mostly flat with drop in ad sales offset by subscriber growth

The New York Times’ advertising revenue continued to drop in the fourth quarter of 2020, though the paper ended the year with 7.5 million subscriptions, according to the company’s Q4 earnings report. Overall revenue was largely flat, but the drop in ad sales — down 26% from 2019 — was offset by the subscriber growth.

During a call with investors Thursday, Times leadership reflected on how many newsworthy events took place in 2020 — from the global pandemic to unrest over systemic racism to the presidential election — while explaining that total Q4 revenues were slightly up year-over-year, growing 0.2% to $509.4 million from $508.4 million in Q4 2019. Subscription revenues saw a greater increase, growing 14.7% to $315.8 million.

Advertising revenues for Q4 fell 18.7% from the previous year to $139.3 million. Other revenues decreased 12.1% to $54.3 million. The loss of advertising revenue was hardly unique to the Times in 2020; As businesses shuttered amid the pandemic, the ads those businesses bought subsided, as well, leading to serious hardship for media companies of all sizes.

Subscription revenues were up as the Times topped 7.5 million total subscriptions during the quarter. Paid digital-only subscriptions grew by 627,000 in the quarter. In 2020, the Times had a record 2.3 million net new digital-only subscription additions. During Thursday’s call, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien was optimistic about the future of subscription growth, noting, “There are a billion people reading digital news and an expected hundred million willing to pay for it in English, so it’s not hard to imagine the Times having a subscriber base that is substantially larger than where we are today.”

Notably, a significant amount of revenue came from podcasts. Podcast subscriptions in Q4 of 2020 totaled $36 million compared to $29 million in 2019. 

You can read the New York Times earnings here.

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