One stock with impressive momentum in 2019 has been The New York Times (NYT 0.22%). The newspaper company's growing digital business has impressed investors, and the share price has surged 47% year to date. Its recently posted first-quarter results reinforced the view that it's executing impressively, as revenue and operating profit increased, and the number of digital subscribers grew sharply.
For investors looking to gauge the state of the company at this point, these quotes from The New York Times' first-quarter earnings call may provide useful insights into a trio of notable topics: how management wants to increase conversion; its plans for a change in its subscription payment model; and why it believes there's plenty of upside left for subscriber growth.
Making The New York Times app a habit
One of the ways New York Times wants to help drive further growth in digital subscribers is by improving its app, aiming to help users form more regular habits of consuming its content. This will not only make the product better, but it will make marketing more efficient, management explained.
The Times is investing in getting "the product itself to be the primary engine and a far better engine of getting people to form a habit and ultimately pay and stay with us," explained New York Times COO Meredith Kopit Levien. "And by that we mean doing the work on shipping the software that helps people discover the content that's going to have the most value to them and want to come back again and again."
Explaining why this will complement the company's marketing spending, the COO said, "And ultimately that means that your marketing gets more efficient, because you've got a better engine in the product itself to convert people and to get them to form a habit."
A change in the Times' pay model is coming
The New York Times has an interesting lever for more digital subscription growth up its sleeve, Times CEO Mark Thompson explained on the earnings call. This lever is a change to the way users pay for the newspaper.
Over the coming months, you'll see us make some changes to our pay model. We don't have any details of these changes to share with you this morning, beyond saying that they're based on extensive testing in the U.S. and other markets -- testing which has given us real confidence that we have the scope to accelerate digital subscription growth even further.
It's unclear what this change could be, but the company has notably been testing different kinds of promotions and free trials.
The opportunity is big
In February, The New York Times announced a goal to achieve 10 million subscribers by 2025. Today, subscriptions are at 4.5 million.
Levien is confident New York Times can get to 10 million, citing the company's large addressable market of people already coming to New York Times' content every month.
[There are] 130 million or 140 million people who come to us every month and only 4.5 million who pay us. And there is a giant opportunity ... to actually make our own platform, through features and value, to [be a] better engine of what gets people to form a habit pay and stay.
For its second quarter, the company guided for more strong growth in its digital business. Management expects digital-only subscription revenue in the quarter to rise at a rate in the mid-teens year over year. Digital advertising revenue is expected to grow at a similar rate.