NYT CEO Mark Thompson: Coronavirus is an opportunity to 'prove the value of trustworthy news'

New York Times Company president and CEO Mark Thompson discusses the paper's digital subscription gains and ad revenue losses. The pandemic is "a moment for news organizations and newspapers to find audiences and prove the value of trustworthy news," Thompson says.

Posted: May 11, 2020 12:11 PM
Updated: May 11, 2020 12:11 PM

At a time when news organizations are reporting on and sharing vital information about the coronavirus pandemic with communities across the country, many are also struggling with a difficult business environment.

But New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said the crisis also presents an opportunity for news organizations to find new audiences and highlight the essential role of journalism.

"Moments like this, this extraordinary and terrible experience which this country and the world is going through, is a moment for news organizations and newspapers to find audiences and prove the value of trustworthy news," Thompson told CNN's Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" on Sunday.

Advertising demand is closely linked to the performance of the larger economy. News organizations and tech giants alike experienced painful ad revenue drops during the first three months of 2020, as coronavirus forced many businesses to shutter and pull back on spending.

Those challenges reached The New York Times. The company reported a record 6 million subscriptions during the first three months of 2020, an increase of more 587,000 from the prior quarter, but its quarterly advertising revenue fell by 15.2%. Thompson said he now expects the company's ad revenue to drop by up to 50% in the June quarter.

"We're seeing a really big -- we think, transient -- hit to advertising," Thompson said. "The explanation is very simple: (It's) the massive, almost medically induced coma which so much of the economy has gone into has a direct effect on advertising."

However, Thompson said the Times is better able to weather this revenue crunch than those of years past, as the company now relies on advertising for only a quarter of its total revenue. Far more important now are its subscriptions, where Thompson said the company is experiencing "really quite astonishing growth."

Other news organizations are not so well positioned. Coronavirus has sped up the collapse of local newsrooms — resulting in cut hours, layoffs and pay cuts. Thompson said the Times may be forced to eliminate a "small number" of jobs in coming months, though it will be "a very small percentage of the total."

He acknowledged that many news organizations are facing hard times, but implored them to look toward the future.

"If papers have got enough ... cash on hand to keep going through the crisis, I think they can build audiences and build loyalty and build recognition," Thompson said.

The crisis could be a chance for newsrooms to innovate, he said, adding that the Times continues to hire in journalism and digital product roles such as engineering and data science.

"I recognize that's very hard for other media players," he said. "But I have to say, if it's humanly possible, this is the moment when the world needs great journalism. It needs newsrooms working 24/7. It need journalism now."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313161

Reported Deaths: 3594
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah51245642
Washington34995276
Marion32577393
Clackamas26570271
Lane23989246
Jackson20977257
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Umatilla12602125
Douglas10712188
Linn1046886
Josephine8659165
Yamhill744999
Klamath643491
Polk623570
Malheur479467
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Coos412069
Columbia324237
Jefferson313746
Lincoln276330
Union272737
Wasco239039
Crook212338
Clatsop211725
Tillamook181523
Baker174421
Morrow167921
Curry166817
Hood River163035
Harney78916
Grant7558
Lake6768
Wallowa50811
Gilliam1374
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 4644566

Reported Deaths: 68019
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles144512125852
Riverside3579884804
San Diego3495814009
San Bernardino3472035506
Orange3146225354
Sacramento1503072089
Santa Clara1405641841
Fresno1358611888
Kern1358421515
Alameda1162141329
Ventura976901120
San Joaquin973871615
Contra Costa95727924
Stanislaus806991234
Tulare72969896
San Mateo52239607
San Francisco51907605
Monterey49465565
Solano44151312
Santa Barbara43112500
Sonoma39441378
Merced39370535
Placer36487364
Imperial34261755
Kings30124284
San Luis Obispo28300313
Madera21707258
Butte21307230
Shasta20683276
Santa Cruz20151211
Yolo19143239
Marin17106242
El Dorado16004127
Sutter13094153
Napa1226895
Yuba926061
Nevada847685
Humboldt829587
Tehama823784
San Benito709067
Mendocino685575
Lassen637627
Tuolumne615393
Lake603687
Amador492259
Glenn398030
Siskiyou389541
Calaveras342266
Del Norte336034
Colusa290918
Inyo166539
Mono14935
Plumas12406
Mariposa99712
Trinity72010
Modoc6278
Sierra1980
Unassigned1650
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