President Trump has been good for the New York Times, including its flagship morning podcast The Daily which now averages about four million downloads per day. With the election over, and the prospect that Trump may not win when the ballot counting is completed, Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien does not sound worried. “It’s hard to imagine that we’re entering a quieter period anytime for news,” she told analysts Thursday. Kopit Levien thinks listeners and readers will continue to turn to the Times “for understanding” on everything from politics to the coronavirus. “We’re not reliant on any single story or topic to drive our growth,” she said.
The Times does not release podcast-specific revenue, but it reported online ad revenue was softer during the quarter, declining 13% to $47.8 million as the paper created less sponsor content on its website. “Audio advertising has been an area of continued resilience driven by The Daily,” said Kopit Levien. Total revenue at the Times was essentially flat at $426.9 million for the quarter.
“Audio will be something to watch in our ad business for some time to come,” said Kopit Levien. “That’s a place where we think there is going to be real demand at high CPMs for some time to come. And our product set is expanding, because The Daily keeps expanding and the audience keeps growing, and as the audience grows there’s more high-CPM advertising to sell.”
The Times’ podcast business leapt forward this year when it struck a $25 million deal to buy Serial Productions and inked a multiyear partnership with This American Life. Kopit Levien, who rose to the CEO title in September, left the door open to investing more in the digital business calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the company. “We have a lot of ambition around what to accomplish, so we don’t rule out further investment,” she said. Still, she said the Times is “reaching a scale” in its core news product, which will make it more selective.
One reason podcasting is such an attractive business to the Times is the amount of revenue it pulls in relative to the cost to produce shows.
In addition to bringing in ad dollars, Kopit Levien said the show will continue to give the Times a way to promote new podcasts and series it launches. It also helps get people to buy a subscription to the newspaper’s website. “The vast majority of The Daily’s audience is under 50, and many under 40, and that tends to bring in a younger audience that now have an affinity for the New York Times,” she said.