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New York Times Subscriber Growth Slows After News-Heavy 2020

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The New York Times Co’s quarterly subscription growth fell to its lowest in over a year as the news cycle cooled after the Trump presidency ended.

The 170 year-old publication had benefited from an action-packed 2020 that was dominated by the tumultuous U.S. elections, civil unrest and the coronavirus crisis, as well as the attention it drew from criticism by former U.S President Donald Trump on many occasions during his term.

“In February and March, our audiences declined from their historic highs last year, and we saw fewer net subscription additions in the latter part of the quarter,” Chief Executive Officer Meredith Kopit Levien said.

The company said on Wednesday it added 301,000 digital subscribers in the first quarter, its lowest gain since the third quarter of 2019.

“We now expect annual total net subscription additions to be in the range of our 2019 performance.”

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However, efforts to ramp up its digital products including news, games, cooking and podcast apps have helped it rake in hordes of subscribers in recent years, especially during the height of the pandemic as people stuck at home sought entertainment.

At the end of March, the Times had more than 7.8 million total subscriptions across digital and print – with close to 7 million digital-only subscriptions, 75% of which came from its core news product.

Although its digital business has been a beacon for other newspapers across a struggling industry, tech giants like Google and Facebook Inc have siphoned online advertising dollars from publishers and distribute news articles without paying the producing outlets.

The Times’ revenue in the first quarter rose 6.6% to $473 million versus estimate of $463.3 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding items, it posted a profit of 26 cents per share, above estimates of 14 cents.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Writing by Subrat Patnaik; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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