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The New York Times has seen paid subscriptions online skyrocket since the election on Nov. 8.
“We’ve seen really remarkable growth,” reaching to over 200,000 new digital-only subscriptions during the fourth quarter, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson on Monday said of subscriber growth since the election during a presentation to the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference that was webcast.
“We’ve seen weeks of 10 times the subscription adds that we saw in the same period last year,” Thompson said, adding no traditional lull in the news cycle following a U.S. president election has occurred as Donald Trump and his presidential transition team continue to attract the attention of media consumers.
“We’re seeing … a surge and I would say more broadly that we expect the lively news cycle to continue in America well into 2017,” he added as Trump gets set for his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Trump has been widely critical of the media, especially with his tweeting, during the recent presidential campaign and now as president-elect. But Trump has slammed The New York Times, his hometown newspaper, for a number of stories (such as suggesting the president-elect’s transition team early on was in a state of disarray).
At the same time, Thompson said Trump has been unpredictable with his characterizations of The New York Times. He recalled the president-elect recently referring on his Twitter account to the “failing @nytimes” before an on-the-record interview with several of its reporters and editors.
“By the afternoon, after he had lunch, we were a jewel, an American and a world jewel. So his opinions change,” Thompson recalled. The newspaper boss said the digital-only subscription growth underlined a dramatic rise in consumer willingness to pay for independent journalism.
“That is a central and, for our business, an incredibly positive fact,” Thompson said, and a trend driven by far more than Trump’s election. He said anxiety over a proliferation of fake news sites, growing acceptance of paid media like Netflix and Spotify and anxiety over global political and economic trends were pushing more people to pay attention to headlines.
‘It feels like everything at the moment is tending towards acceleration,” Thompson told investors. He added the media needed to call politicians out for seeming to operate in a fact-free environment.
“There’s a very strong belief that politicians are saying things that are not true and need to be held to account. I would say the issue of the veracity and reliability of political statements is a much bigger thing than, as it were, fake news as such,” Thompson argued.
He said both Trump and Hilary Clinton were seen to make untrue statements during the recent campaign. “The public anxiety to have politicians held to account and having professional, consistent, properly funded newsrooms holding politicians to account is probably bigger than all of the other factors put together,” Thompson said to explain his newspaper’s soaring digital subscription growth.
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