Tuesday, August 11, 2020

NYTimes CEO Expects Print Paper To End In 20 Years

The New York Times was founded in 1851, but it would surprise outgoing CEO Mark Thompson if the physical paper made it to 2040.

“I believe the Times will definitely be printed for another 10 years and quite possibly another 15 years — maybe even slightly more than that,” Thompson told CNBC’s A View from the Top. “I would be very surprised if it’s printed in 20 years’ time.”

More than 900,000 people subscribe to the print version of the newspaper, said Thompson. At its current subscriber levels, the paper could be printed seven days a week at a profit without a single advertisement, he said.

But as readers become more accustomed to reading the Times on smartphones, tablets and computers each year, a printed paper is clearly a dying form. The New York Times Company reported last quarter that total digital revenue exceeded print revenue for the first time ever. Print advertising fell more than 50% year over year from last quarter, driven by both secular declines and the pandemic. Thompson told CNBC he doubts that advertising will ever come back.

“I’m skeptical about whether it will recover to where it was during 2019 levels,” Thompson said. “It was already in year-over-year decline for many years. I think that decline is probably inexorable.”

Thompson is stepping down next month as the Times’ CEO, to be replaced by Meredith Levien, after stewarding the company for the past eight years. As CEO, Thompson has seen shares of The New York Times Company rise more than 400%. The company’s gains have come as digital subscriptions have skyrocketed, especially in the past five years. The Times reported 1 million digital-only subscriptions in October 2015. At the end of the second quarter, the Times had 5.7 million total digital-only subscriptions. Thompson set a goal for the company to reach 10 million digital-only customers by 2025.

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