The New York Times reaches 9.1 million subscribers

Aided by the recent addition of the sports website AtleticoThe New York Times Company said Wednesday that it added 387,000 net digital subscribers in the first quarter.

The company now has 9.1 million subscribers, it said, if it includes those of The Athletic, which the Times Company bought on Feb.1.

As the leap brings The Times closer to its stated goal of 15 million subscribers by the end of 2027, The Athletic is eating away at the company’s profits. The website that The Times bought for $ 550 million in cash lost $ 6.8 million between February and March.

In short, the company reported Adjusted operating income of $ 60.9 million for the quarter, down from $ 68.1 million a year earlier, damaged by The Athletic operating losses.

Growth in subscriptions and advertising helped increase total revenue by 13.6% to $ 537.4 million. While total ad revenue increased nearly 20%, digital ad revenue for the quarter was up 12.6%, less than the company’s forecast.

Total operating costs increased nearly 18% to $ 496.4 million.

“We are getting off to a great start in the next phase of our strategy, which is to become the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and interact with the world,” Meredith Kopit Levien, president and chief executive officer of The Times Company he said in a statement.

Ms. Levien previously said Times executives believed the market was “at least 135 million” of potential subscribers.

In February, The Times announced which had met the existing target of 10 million subscriptions and set the new target of at least 15 million subscribers.

At the end of 2021, the company said it had approximately 7.6 million subscribers with 8.8 million subscriptions. Athletic’s acquisition this year brought with it approximately 1.1 million subscribers. The company said Athletic added about 16,000 net subscribers in the two months following its acquisition.

Ms. Levien described subscription growth as the best results in the first quarter beyond the first quarter of 2020, driven by widespread interest in news about the coronavirus pandemic.

The company made a distinction between subscribers and subscriptions – a subscriber can have more than one subscription – in its earnings report for the first time Wednesday. It reflects the company’s strategy of selling people subscription packages that give them access to news and lifestyle products, such as Cooking and Wirecutter, a review and advice site.

That strategy was shown with the company’s acquisition of The Athletic and, in January, Wordlea game that offers players six chances to understand a five-letter word.

Ms. Levien said Wordle attracted tens of millions of new users to the Times Company, “many of whom stayed to play other games, which spearheaded our best quarter ever for adding net subscribers to Games. “.

For the current quarter, the company expects revenues from digital-only subscriptions to increase 23-27% from a year ago, while digital advertising revenues are expected to increase in the “low single digits”.

Adjusted operating costs for the New York Times Group, which does not include The Athletic, are expected to increase 12 to 15 percent in the quarter and then slow in the second half of the year, the company said. Atletico’s estimated operating losses last year were $ 55 million on $ 65 million in revenue, and the Times said it expected a slight improvement in those losses in 2022.