If current trend lines hold up, circulation revenues at The New York Times will pass ad revenues sometime this quarter for the first time ever. In the second quarter, the Times brought in $185
million in advertising revenue, while it reaped $166 million from its subscribers.
It's a landmark event and points the way toward a new model. The New York Times in the second quarter pulled in from its 1.1 million daily and Sunday print readers about $151 each. That's $50 a month per reader. If the NYT went online-only and charged those print readers $15 a month, experts say maybe about a half might pay. If 2%-3% of the paper's online readers also paid, it would add up to $189 million, which is enough to pay for the entire New York Times newsroom. Any online ad revenue would be added to that number.
But the Times can't just switch over from a legacy business model to a new-media business. It still has legacy costs, such as debt, to contend with. It might have to reorganize in Chapter 11 to emerge a leaner company able to implement this strategy. But if you don't care about the physical form of the paper, the new strategy could pay for the journalism.