The easy money is gone.
If there was a bright spot in the latest quarterly results from the New York Times, it’s the fact that the newspaper’s metered paywall has attracted almost 325,000 subscribers willing to pay a monthly fee for the site. Despite all the celebrating from the pro-paywall camp, however, that bright spot was more than overshadowed by the other dark clouds in the numbers — including the fact that print advertising revenue continues to decline, and the paper’s former online jewel About.com got whacked by Google’s algorithm updates. Anyone who takes on the job of CEO at the NYT media company is going to have to start thinking creatively about its business, because all the easy money has already been made.
Although the paywall and related print-subscription deals helped boost circulation revenue by almost 5 percent in the NYT’s media group — which includes the New York Times, theBoston Globe and the International Herald Tribune — and digital advertising revenue was also up by about 5 percent for the quarter, neither of those things were able to compensate for the continued drop-off in print advertising. Print ad revenue fell by almost 8 percent, which helped push the NYT’s fourth-quarter profit down by more than 12 percent, and for the full year the company reported a loss of $40 million.
Paywall revenue isn’t even close to making up the gap … According to newspaper-industry analyst Ken Doctor, the NYT is probably pulling in about $86 million or so from its digital paywall — or “metered access,” as the paper likes to call it, since you get to read 20 articles for free before you get hit with a request for your credit card. But that’s not even close to being enough to make up for the decline in ad revenue, both print and digital, which dropped by 7 percent in the quarter.