New York Times' digital subscriber growth slows, shares drop

(Reuters) - The New York Times Co NYT.N added fewer paid digital subscribers in the second quarter as it cut back on discounts, overshadowing its better-than-expected quarterly results and sending its shares down nearly 5 percent on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The sun peaks over the New York Times Building in New York, U.S., on August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The newspaper publisher started charging for online subscriptions from 2011 to offset a decline in readers of its broadsheets and has largely been successful in its efforts.

Digital subscriptions, starting at $97.76 for one year, are cheaper than print editions and some plans come bundled with access to its sought-after daily crossword puzzles and cooking recipes.

The company, however, has cut back on discounts it launched last year, when it also got a boost from the “Trump bump” - the effect of U.S. President Donald Trump’s attacks on the paper as well as the Times’ coverage of his administration.

New York Times added 109,000 paid digital subscribers in the second quarter, compared with 114,000 a year earlier.

“Our subscribers who came to us around the 2016 Election and post-Election periods continue to retain better than previous cohorts,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson said in a statement.

The 167-year old newspaper expects third-quarter subscription revenue to increase in the mid-single digits and advertising revenue to fall in low-single digits.

The company had 3.8 million total subscriptions at the end of the quarter, 2.9 million of which were digital-only.

Digital advertising revenue, which accounts for more than a third of the company's total advertising revenue, fell 7.5 percent to $51 million, hurt by a drop in display advertising, where it competes with the likes of Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O Google and Facebook Inc FB.O for ad dollars.

However, subscription revenue from the company’s digital-only subscription products, which include online news as well crossword and recipes, rose 19.6 percent to $98.7 million.

Net income attributable jumped 51 percent to $23.6 million, or 14 cents per share, in the quarter.

Excluding items, the company earned 17 cents per share, above the average analyst estimate of 15 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 1.8 percent $414.6 million, above the average estimate of $412.3 million.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel