From one perspective, the New York Times’ latest financial results don’t really look all that great. Revenue was basically flat, and advertising revenues fell—including digital-advertising revenue, which dropped by 5%. But there were some signs of hope in the company’s results as well, as some of its experiments in alternative revenue-generation methods look like they are starting to pay off.
For one thing, subscriber growth continues to be strong: The paper recently crossed the 1 million mark when it comes to digital subscribers, and in the most recent quarter it added another 51,000 paying subscribers. The latter figure is a 19% increase over the same period in the previous year, and the most subscribers it has added in a quarter since 2012.
The company (NYT) said the drop in digital ads was due to short-term factors. But the Times is also trying hard to move away from relying so much on the fading print business and the low-margin web advertising market. Instead, it is focusing on growing its sponsored content or native advertising unit, looking at alternative sources of revenue like events, and beefing up its mobile offerings.
The Times‘ chief revenue officer, Meredith Levien, said mobile advertising now makes up about 20% of digital ad revenue, which came in at $36.5 million, or about 10% of overall revenue. A company spokesperson later told Politico that branded content now makes up about 18% of the company’s digital advertising.
Although they are still small relative to the size of the paper’s traditional business, these and other efforts are continuing to grow, in some cases fairly rapidly. Times CEO Mark Thompson said that revenues in the “other” category climbed by more than 16% in the quarter, and most of that was due to growth in the company’s NYT Live business, which includes conferences and live events.
The biggest problem for the Times, of course, is that even when they are all lumped together, its digital subscription, branded content and live events businesses still aren’t anywhere near as large as the print side, which continues to decline. But at least it has other irons in the fire.