With the NYTimes.com’s metered paywall having reached 1 million subs (281,000 paid) in Q2, and plans for the Boston.com paywall underway, New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) CEO Janet Robinson said she expects significant revenue to result from digital subscriptions in the second half of the year. However, the advertising picture still looks mixed at best, as Robinson said economic uncertainty has not abated, resulting in “volatility” for advertisers planning their budgets, as Q2 revenue declines demonstrated. However, as she went on to say, that hasn’t diminished marketers’ enthusiasm for placing ads on the iPad.
Robinson also pointed out 33 million uniques for the site and said that pageview declines have been less than expected, though she did not specify what those benchmarks were. Meanwhile, the NYTimes.com is looking to reduce the amount of sales of remnant inventory and focus more on premium.
Apps: On the mobile and portable device front, the iPhone app, which still offers a limited amount of free content to non-digital subs, has been downloaded 7 million times since its debut in 2008. Meanwhile, the NYT iPad app has been downloaded 2.3 million times since being introduced with the release of the first version of the device in April 2010. Robinson also said that even with most of the content on the iPad app closed off to non-digital subs, advertising inventory is sold out to the end of the third quarter.
Boston paywall: In September The Boston Globe will launch BostonGlobe.com, a brand new, subscription-based website that will reflect the full paper’s content. Home delivery subscribers of the Boston Globe will receive free access to BostonGlobe.com, while the existing Boston.com will remain free, offering a more basic range of breaking and local news, as well as daily deals, sports and weather, social sharing. The existing site will also be more of a focus for local entertainment, travel and restaurant guide channels, Robinson said.
About.com: Modest improvement in cost-per-click performance is expected by mid-August, as the unit “cycles through” the negative effects of the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) algorithm change, which was one of the primary reasons for the site’s revenue decline since Q4.
Later in the call, Martin Nisenholtz, the NYTCo SVP of digital operations who led the 2005 acquisition of About and was named head of the unit during the quarter, said, “We’ve been working very hard at putting a new sales force in team and a more disciplined sales plan, we’ve created a new Spanish channel, and will devolving initiatives in the mobile app arena.” Asked by Craig Huber what the expectations for Q3 are, the design change taking place should help, but business will remain volatile. Essentially, the turnaround should come next year, Nisenholtz said.
Paywall subs: JP Morgan’s Alexia Quadrani asked a number of questions about the financial impact and rate of promotions designed to entice digital subscriptions. For example, there was an introductory 99 cent offer to get the total digital package for four weeks, noted advertising manager and website head Denise Warren, but she declined to offer details involved in attracting subscribers.
She also declined to provide numbers about the kinds of packages subscribers were choosing, such as the print/digital combos, citing competitive reasons. Warren did say that the bundle that has web and smartphone access for one price was the most popular of all the options. The rate of subscriber growth slowed during the quarter, but that’s a reaction to the enormous interest that accompanied the metered paywall’s launch, she said.”This is three months old and we have yet to launch a number of products that will help grow that business, like gift subscriptions, corporate accounts,” Warren said.