MEDIA
02/13/2018 05:26 pm ET

New York Times CEO Says Print Edition Might Live Another 10 Years

Mornings of fighting over sections of the paper are coming to an end.

Time is running out to read the Grey Lady in CMYK.

New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said in a Monday interview with CNBC that the next decade will likely witness the decline of the paper’s print edition as it transitions to digital-only distribution.

“I believe at least 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products,” Thompson said. Although he’d like to see the print edition “survive and thrive as long as it can,” the CEO said his company will decide when to shutter its print operations “simply on the economics.”

“The key thing for us is that we’re pivoting,” Thompson said. “Our plan is to go on serving our loyal print subscribers as long as we can. But meanwhile to build up the digital business, so that we have a successful growing company and a successful news operation long after print is gone.”

Despite the repeated insults President Donald Trump has hurled at the Times over Twitter, it does not appear to be a “failing” enterprise. The New York Times Company said Thursday that it added more than 150,000 digital-only subscriptions in the last quarter of 2017. Digital ad revenue over the last year increased 14 percent, and the company’s fourth-quarter earnings blew past expectations.

While print subscribers are more profitable, Thompson said the company is banking on replacing them with many more digital subscribers.

“The point about digital is that we believe we can grow many, many more of them,” he said.

As media critic after media critic declares printdead,” the days of fighting over sections or lazily paging through jumbo-sized Sunday editions of any newspaper are waning.

The Village Voice, a New York alt-weekly, became one of the most prominent local outlets to announce plans to shut down its print operation last summer, continuing digitally. Other print publications have disappeared completely or face worrisome futures.

But the problem doesn’t stop at print. The media industry faces challenges across the board as publications struggle with subscription models and advertising revenue. CNN will reportedly soon become the latest outlet to make staffing cuts, following reductions at Hearst, BuzzFeed, Vice and others, along with the recent shuttering of The Awl website.

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