Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The New York Times Reports a Digital Success Story

The New York Times’ pay wall, long debated in and outside of the company, now looks like a bona fide success.

The company has more than 530,000 paying subscribers for its digital editions, and it credits the plan with a consistent increase in circulation dollars. Which it needs, because its ad dollars continue to shrink.

Here’s another data point in favor of the plan: A report from Barclays analyst Kannan Venkateshwar, who estimates that the paper will have more digital subscribers than print subs within a couple of years.

The caveats: Even if Venkateshwar’s projections are right, the digital subscription story won’t solve all of the Times’ problems. For starters, each digital customer generates much less revenue than a print customer: The digital sub pays around $220 a year for the Times, versus approximately $730 for the paper-and-ink version.

And while the profits that each kind of sub generates for the paper should be roughly equal — because it’s a whole lot cheaper to produce and deliver a digital copy than a print one — that only holds true if the Times isn’t overly reliant on discounts to sell its digital subscriptions.

Still, Venkateshwar, who has been bullish on the Times for a while, argues that most of the digital subscribers to date seem to be new customers. So all of this is incremental revenue. That’s a best-case scenario for the paper.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald