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Summary:

A news report gave the New York Times some powerful validation for its online paywall model. But a closer look at the numbers show that digital subscriber dollars can only be one part of the Times’ future.

It’s been a good morning for The New York Times. Media types are buzzing about its luscious Colorado avalanche story and a gushing Bloomberg headline says its “paywall is working better than anyone guessed.”

The Bloomberg story cites an Evercore Partners analyst who predicts the NYT Co will earn $91 million in 2012 through digital subscriptions, a figure that will account for 12 percent of all circulation revenue. The story also says things would look even brighter if the Times wasn’t being dragged down by a sickly Boston Globe.

Well, maybe. We’ll acknowledge that the Times has developed the most sophisticated paywall strategy of any paper to date, and that digital sales are crucial to its future. But this doesn’t mean that its paying online subscribers (now 566,000 and growing) will be enough to make up for declining ad revenue. The reality is that the paper is riding a temporary revenue wave that comes from boosting its print and newsstand subscriptions. The company continues to be coy about how much circulation revenue is from digital versus print — and how many digital subscribers will stick around once a raft of promotions expire. As my colleague, Mathew Ingram puts it, the company is running faster and faster to stay in place.

The New York Times is here for the long term but it will not be able to sustain itself in its current state on digital dollars alone. It’s a good bet that the Times will soon be looking harder at expanding its events, partnerships and other business opportunities.

(Image by Carlos E. Santa Maria via Shutterstock)

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  1. It’s a tough row for them to hoe, that’s for sure. But they’ve got a very, very deep bench. There’s plenty of talent there and the talent doesn’t run hard as often as it could.

  2. super superfluous “article”

  3. FYI. The ‘Colorado’ avalanche story actually took place in the state of Washington.

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