N.Y. Times Finds Online Customers
New figures contain decidedly mixed news for high-profile media outlets.
Sometimes in the media business, it all comes down to numbers.The New York Times announced Thursday that more than 100,000 people have signed up for digital subscriptions since it imposed a somewhat porous paywall last month. That’s not a bad start, given the inherent difficulty of getting folks to pay for news online. The cheapest plan, to go beyond 20 free online articles a month, is $15 every four weeks.It’s not clear how many of these readers will stick around, how many were attracted by an initial discount, or how many more may sign up in the coming months. If the figure triples this year, the company may have a viable business plan. As the Times put it in corporate-speak: “So soon after the launch, the company does not yet have visibility into conversion and retention rates for these paying customers after the initial promotional period, although early indicators are encouraging.” Thanks for clearing that up.A less encouraging figure: the Times Co.’s net income dropped 58 percent in the first quarter, to $5.4 million, compared with last year. Digital ad revenue was up, but a decline in print advertising indicates that newspapers are still struggling in this lousy economy.Gawker is facing its own set of depressing figures. Traffic tanked for the set of gossipy Web sites after a redesign in February; it was so unpopular, in fact, that Gawker added a button for readers to switch back to the old format.If this chart in the Atlantic has it right, unique monthly visitors to the flagship Gawker site plunged from roughly 100,000 to 50,000; the drop was more dramatic at the tech blog Gizmodo:“Turns out, according to Gawker's public statistics, things are much, much worse than was originally reported. Yes, the redesign cut traffic in half almost instantly, but instead of coming back, even more readers left the site behind.” Gawker boss Nick Denton disputes the chart, saying his monthly traffic dropped from 100,000 to 50,000 but is now back up to 93,000.Closer to home, Adweek reports that newsstand sales for Newsweek are up 19 percent, 7 percent and 21 percent for the first three issues since Tina Brown’s redesign, compared with the average for 2010. The piece also examines why advertising revenue hasn’t followed suit.Most of Newsweek’s sales come from subscriptions, but newsstand sales are a much-watched barometer of how magazines are faring.