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An industry-wide slump in newspaper print advertising overshadowed a post-election surge in subscriptions at the New York Times in the final quarter of 2016, capping a rocky year for media companies.
Fourth-quarter net income sank 28 per cent to $37.1m, or 23 cents a share, from $51.7m, or 32 cents a share, the previous year. Revenue was down 1 per cent to $439.7m as declines in print advertising offset gains in circulation and digital advertising.
For the full year, net income dropped 54 per cent to $29.1m, or 18 cents a share, from $63.2m, or 38 cents a share, in 2015.
Revenue dipped 2 per cent to $1.6bn in 2016, dragged by the gloomy print ad market. The NYT recorded a 9 per cent drop in total advertising revenue over the year, driven by a 16 per cent decline in print. That offset growth in the digital business, including a 6 per cent rise in online ad sales and a 17 per cent increase in digital subscription revenue.
Subscription growth was particularly robust in the final quarter, as the NYT and other newspapers saw a boost in interest following the election of Donald Trump. NYT added 276,000 net digital-only subscriptions in the quarter, the best showing since it implemented its paywall in 2011. The company now counts 1.6m digital subscribers, and more than 3m total subscribers, including those who subscribe to its print edition and to its crossword product.
“The continued excellence of our journalism and our consumer-first focus led to incredible strength in our circulation business, both in the fourth quarter and for the full year,” said Mark Thompson, chief executive.
The company has undertaken a sweeping review of its newsroom strategy over the past year, in a bid to accelerate revenue growth from its digital businesses and better manage the long-term decline in print. Last month, the paper’s top editors announced plans to cut its budget and eliminate an unspecified number of print-centric editing and production jobs this year, while also investing an additional $5m to cover the Trump administration.