In the past year, an actual media company was a better bet than the digital giants

Gaining ground.
Gaining ground.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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Actual media might be making a comeback.

Today (Feb. 8), The New York Times Company posted expectation-beating earnings, bringing shareholders surprisingly high profits. The news sent Times’ stock up more than 10%, valuing it at more than $24 a share, a level it hadn’t seen since the summer of 2007.

Traditional media organizations—even those offering digital products—have been struggling to stay afloat. Print, once a reliable source of advertising revenue, is less and less profitable. In September, the Wall Street Journal announced it would stop publishing (paywall) Asia and Europe print editions.  This past quarter, The  Times’ print advertising revenue fell 8.4% (paywall). The company’s digital ad revenue, on the other hand, rose 8.5% the same quarter.

The Times’ success is on the back of growing digital subscriptions, which have surged since Donald Trump took office. (The president has repeatedly accused “the failing New York Times” of reporting fake news.) This past quarter, The Times added 157,000 digital-only subscriptions, bringing subscription revenue, from print and digital, to over $1 billion for 2017. Subscription revenue now makes up 60% of the news organization’s total.

That’s a dramatic shift in an industry that’s traditionally reliant on advertising. And now Facebook and Google are increasingly reshaping how advertising works, competing with traditional outlets for digital dollars.

In the battle between the media industry and the digital giants, however, The Times is cutting ahead in one way. Relative to last year, its share-price performance has topped both Google’s parent, Alphabet, and Facebook.

Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that Facebook’s market cap is  more than $500 billion; Alphabet’s is more than $700 billion. In the grand scheme of things, The Times still has a long way to go.