New York Times signs up more online subscribers, shares rise

(Reuters) - The New York Times Co reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue on Wednesday as it signed up more online subscribers, sending its shares up as much as 4 percent.

FILE PHOTO: The New York Times building is seen in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

The newspaper, which has benefited from President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on its coverage of his administration over the past two years, added 223,000 digital subscribers in the first quarter, compared with the 139,000 last year, bringing the total to 4.5 million.

“Subscription revenues made up two-thirds of the company’s revenues and for the first time, digital-only subscription revenue was more than a quarter of total company revenue,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson said.

Online subscriptions have become crucial to the Times’ future, with advertisers increasingly spending on digital platforms as readers shift to online sources for their daily dose of news.

Subscription revenue from the company’s digital-only products, which allow access to news as well as its sought-after daily crossword puzzles and cooking recipes, rose 15 percent to $110 million.

Digital advertising revenue also rose - up 19 percent in the quarter, easily offsetting a 12 percent decline in print advertising revenue.

“Our Crossword product passed the 500,000 total subscription mark, which makes it, in its own right, the 5th largest digital subscription product from a U.S. news provider,” Thompson said.

Encouraged with the success of Crossword and Cooking, the Times on Wednesday launched Parenting - an online subscription-based service that will cover everything from fertility and pregnancy to baby and kid care.

While the company has a goal of reaching 10 million subscribers overall by 2025, it expects digital subscriber additions to slow in the second quarter.

“It’s always a much slower quarter for student subscriptions, which still play a meaningful role,” Chief Operating Officer Meredith Levien said.

Net income attributable to shareholders rose 38 percent to $30.2 million. On a per share basis, it earned 20 cents excluding one-time items.

Total revenue rose 6 percent to $439.1 million. Analysts on average estimated a profit of 10 cents per share and revenue of $435.8 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of the 167-year old newspaper were up 3.7 percent at $34.14, adding to a more than 50 percent rise so far this year.

Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty