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5 Key Takeaways From The New York Times' Earnings Call

By Natalie Walters - Updated May 29, 2018 at 4:04PM

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The New York Times is working to diversify its revenue streams through cooking and crossword subscriptions, as well as new TV and film projects.

The New York Times Co. (NYT -3.74%) has been under additional scrutiny since the 2016 election as President Donald Trump continues to call out the flagship publication for what he deems "fake news." But the company is holding up under the spotlight, reporting quarterly revenue of $413.9 million, up from $398 million in the year-ago quarter.

The New York Times had tough comparisons this quarter considering it got a boost in subscribers at this time last year, when the election had just ended and people were eager to keep up with the news through reputable sources. That explains why the Times added fewer digital subscribers in the latest quarter -- 139,000, compared with 348,000 a year earlier. 

But due to new revenue streams and a rollback on discounts, the company's digital subscription revenue still rose 25.8% to $95.4 million. To get a better picture of how The New York Times Company is doing one year post-election, here are five key takeaways from its latest earnings call. 

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and A.G. Sulzberger of The New York Times pose in front of a black backdrop in a professional photo

The New York Times' chairman, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., and publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, are focusing on building additional revenue streams for the company. Image source: The New York Times.

1. The NYT is turning its attention to TV and film

The NYT was pleasantly surprised by the success of its daily news podcast The Daily, which debuted in February 2017 and now boasts 4.5 million unique listeners each month. The podcast has helped drive more traffic to its site, and the company believes it can use this same strategy with new film and TV projects. 

The New York Times' first feature film will center on how an all-female team at the Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story that made waves around the world when it was published in the fall of 2017. This follows the 2017 film centered on The Washington Post's investigative team, aptly named The Post, which made $175 million at the box office and was a nominee for a Best Picture Academy Award. 

The company is also working on an extended TV program called The Weekly that will take viewers behind the scenes of its newsroom. FX landed the first-run North American rights to the program, while Hulu will have exclusive streaming rights to the program the day after episodes air.

2. The NYT claims it has a good relationship with Facebook

The journalism world has had a bumpy relationship with Facebook this year after the social media platform made tweaks to its News Feed that caused a drop in traffic for a number of publishers. 

However, The New York Times' management claims that recent conversations with Facebook indicate that while the latter wants less overall emphasis on news in the News Feed, it also wants to help promote trusted news sources over less reliable sources. Facebook specifically told them that it sees the Times as a trusted news source, NYT CEO Mark Thompson claimed on the earnings call. To that point, Thompson said he actually believes the News Feed tweak could end up helping the paper's traffic. 

3. The NYT is renting out floors for additional revenue

In the past quarter, the New York Times reorganized its headquarters to free up more space for rental income. The company has already signed leases for 4.5 floors and expects the rental income from these agreements to show in the second quarter under "Other" revenue. By the end of the year, the New York Times expects to be reporting rental income from the additional 3.5 free floors. 

4. The NYT expects a boost from upcoming midterms

The 2016 election gave The New York Times a meaningful boost in subscribers, and the company is hoping to capitalize on the same thirst for trusted news sources during this year's midterm elections. The NYT COO Meredith Levien said she's expecting a vigorous new cycle of subscription signups at the end of 2018 and into the start of 2019.  

5. The NYT's cooking, crossword offerings are doing well

The Times added 99,000 subscribers to its basic digital news product, as well as 40,000 subscribers to its Crosswords and Cooking offerings. That made for a grand total of more than 3.7 million subscribers at the end of the quarter, across the print and digital businesses. 

The NYT Cooking subscription was announced about a year ago, in June 2017. For $5 every four weeks, subscribers have unlimited access to more than 18,000 recipes from past and present New York Times food writers. The NYT Crossword subscription costs about $20 annually for access to its daily puzzle, as well as all of the puzzles in its archive. 

These subscriptions are separate from the basic digital and print subscriptions, meaning they help the publication gain new subscribers who just want to subscribe to its Crossword or Cooking products. And they're also a way to increase the average revenue per user as some of its print and digital subscribers opt to pay for access to these add-on subscriptions. 

Natalie Walters has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends The New York Times. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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