Another day, another skirmish between Donald Trump and the "failing" New York Times.
It started early on Saturday morning, when in a tweet Trump slammed the Times' new ad campaign set to air during the Oscars on Sunday night: "For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation,” the president tweeted."
For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2017
The ad in question is the following:
Appearing several hours later on CNN - another media outlet bashed by Donald Trump as "fake news" - the executive editor of the New York Times said that Trump’s attempts to smear the publication have instead encouraged more people to read it.
“Trump is the best thing to happen to the Times’ subscription strategy,” Dean Baquet said during an interview with CNN’s "Reliable Sources." “Every time he tweets it drives subscriptions wildly.”
The NYT executive added that Trump has revitalized reporters who may have been pessimistic about the future of the industry.
"There was a long time when the press wondered about its place in society, the last several years as newspaper subscriptions dwindled, as particularly local newspapers worried about their future."
"What’s happened in the last couple of months I have to say has been tremendous for news organizations."
"Our mission is clearer than it's ever been — we’re covering a dramatic revolution in government and how the country is governed, and it feels like all of the things that sort of bothered us and made us lose a little bit of confidence in the last few months have sort of gone away."
While the NYT has often repeated that Trump's bashing has resulted in a boost to its subscriptions (without elaborating on new subscriber churn) confirmation will only be available when the NYT reports it first quarter results in over a month. Meanwhile, however, a more troubling trend for the news paper which was recently forced to lease space in its landmark NYC headquarters to boost cash flow, is the decline in advertising - mostly print - revenue, which in Q4 tumbled by 10%. In fact, while circulation/subscription revenue rose by $10 million in Q4, ad revenue declined by double the amount or $20 million.
That, coupled with a 3% rise in operating costs, has led to a continued decline in operating profits, even when excluding one-time charges.
This is what the NYT said in its public filing on what to expect in the coming quarter:
Total circulation revenues in the first quarter of 2017 are expected to increase approximately 6 percent compared to the first quarter of 2016.
Total advertising revenues in the first quarter of 2017 are expected to decrease in the high-single digits compared to the first quarter of 2016.
Ultimately, for the NYT to be viable as a going concern, it will need to stem the plunge in ad revenue which may also be adversely impacted by Trump's relentless bashing.
And then there is the question of overall traffic, which brings up another curious observation.
Three weeks ago we showed that, inexplicably, according to Alexa a whopping 49% of the NYT's readers were out of China, which was impossible since the US publication is firewalled in China.
Since our public observation, the NYT's Chinese "traffic" has crashed to just 3.5%, which while still improbable, is far more reasonable.
As a consequence of this, the public-facing NYT traffic has tumbled to the lowest level in a year. It is this, more so than Trump's twitter feed, that advertisers will be closely looking at when making future ad campaign decisions.