Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.
The New York Times Company announced this week that the paper added 455,000 digital subscribers in the third quarter of 2021, “a gain that keeps the publisher on pace to reach its stated goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025.”
The New York Times leads the digital subscription field with over 7.6 million people paying for its online products. The company’s operating profits grew by 15 percent year-over-year, reaching $65.1 million.
The news about NYT adding a bunch of new subscribers isn’t surprising, but there are three particularly noteworthy points in the company’s quarterly report.
First, the American “newspaper of record” is increasingly global. Last quarter, it hit a symbolic milestone of one million subscriptions outside the United States – a minority among The New York Times’ audience but a large number as compared with most other digital outlets.
Second, an important portion of the growth came from new digital offerings, some of them not directly connected to core news coverage. Particularly, the company moved Wirecutter, a parallel dedicated to product reviews, behind a paywall, as well as doubled down on newsletters for paid subscribers. Games and cooking are also constant sources of new paid subscribers.
Third, the company’s quarterly results indicate “a strong rebound in advertising revenue” as the pandemic recedes, as highlighted by The Wall Street Journal. Ad revenues grew 40% year-over-year as compared to 2020 (though they proved a bit lower than in the third quarter of pre-pandemic 2019).
More from The Fix: The state of media subscription business: 4 findings from the FIPP report
The New York Times isn’t the only major publisher that’s increasing its newsletter offerings. The Atlantic this week added nine writers to contribute to the magazine’s new newsletter platform.
The company’s goal is to attract more paying subscribers and hit the goal of becoming profitable next year. Consistent with recent trends, The Atlantic’s bosses told Axios they were looking for interesting personalities to write the newsletter rather than specific topics.
“Legacy publishers were caught flat-footed by the independent newsletter revolution that swept the [American] journalism industry during the pandemic,” Axios notes – but not all journalists newsletter authors managed to quickly build an audience on their own, making a partnership with a legacy institution a good opportunity.
More from The Fix: Beginning of a newsletter arms race
Over the past several weeks, Facebook might have hit the worst PR crisis in its history. The documents that the whistleblower Frances Haugen shared first with The Wall Street Journal and then with a wider consortium of journalists reveal serious flaws in the company’s operations and its impact on the world.
These revelations, however, aren’t getting as much attention among the general public as they do in the media. An analysis conducted by Axios shows that “Facebook’s big problems get little mainstream attention.” Public interest in the company, as indicated by online search data, has declined over the past year.
The company’s biggest problems are most likely to come not from the general public but from its employees – Facebook becoming a less attractive place for highly skilled software engineers might become a huge pain for Mark Zuckerberg’s company – and regulators.
To the latter point, this week UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries warned that leaders of tech companies such as Meta (a new name for the company that owns Facebook) could face criminal charges for “harmful algorithms.” The remarks come as the government is preparing its online safety bill that could mark a milestone in social media regulation.
More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: Facebook Papers’ Media Angle, Telegram Ads Platform
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photo from Wikipedia