News publishers see audience growth, advertising revenues plummet

The New York Times Company posted a record uptick in digital subscriptions, pushing revenue up slightly for the quarter. The company added 587,000 new digital subs for a total of over five million. Meanwhile, Torstar Corporation––the parent company of the Toronto Star (and this author’s former employer)—now has 32,000 digital-only subscriptions, a 14 per cent increase from the previous quarter. However, Torstar reported that print advertising dropped 58 per cent in the last two weeks of March. And Times CEO Mark Thompson said advertising fell rapidly toward the end of the first quarter, and was expected to fall between 50 to 55 per cent in the next quarter, “with limited visibility beyond that.” For the quarter, Times revenue was up one per cent, while Torstar revenue was down 17 per cent year over year.

Media companies are seeing a rise in digital readership due to the coronavirus pandemic, but are also facing a sharp drop in advertising, from companies looking to preserve cash. Australia announced last month that it will require platforms to compensate news organizations for excerpting their stories in products such as Google News and Facebook’s News Feed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that making tech companies share advertising revenue with Canadian media companies was not a priority. His comments came after Canada’s largest newspapers issued a public call for financial support.