With no major sporting events and barely any travel happening due to the coronavirus, The New York Times plans to stop printing hard copies of those sections in the storied newspaper's Sunday edition and replace them with a section focused on life while sheltering in place, according to internal memos and sources.
In a note that will be sent out to employees this week, executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn told employees the Travel section of the newspaper will be replaced with a new section called At Home which will debut on Sunday.
In addition, the Sunday Sports section will no longer be printed separately and will be folded into the front section of the newspaper. Additional travel-related stories could live throughout the paper.
“The extraordinary nature of this moment has driven remarkable changes in our journalism,” the note reads. “It has also caused us to rethink the way we produce traditional elements of the news report and, in particular, the structure of the print newspaper.”
At Home, which will be edited by Amy Virshup, will focus on “bring[ing] art and beauty into your home, along with health, style, deliciousness and a little bit of fun.” It will include games, tips for fitness and beauty, and easy recipes, as well as advice on child care and organization among other things. At Home will run throughout the duration of the pandemic, after which the Travel and Sunday Sports sections will return. Subscribers will be notified of the changes on Friday.
The Times’s average print circulation for weekdays (Monday through Friday) is approximately 443,000 and is 918,000 for Sunday. The sports section usually is combined with the business section of the Times, but is a separate entity on Sundays and Mondays. Travel is printed on Sundays. Sports Monday will still continue to be printed during the pandemic.
The widespread cancellation of live sports events and the suspension of most major sports leagues have created a dearth of content. Networks like NBA TV are re-playing old games on an endless loop, interspersed with interviews of current stars done from their homes. ESPN and Netflix recently debuted a new docuseries “The Last Dance,” using formerly unseen footage of the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls championship team for what would be Michael Jordan’s final season with the Bulls. The first two episodes averaged 6.1 million viewers. By comparison, the 2019 NBA Finals averaged 15.14 million viewers.
Meanwhile, the travel industry has slowed to a standstill because of shelter-in-place orders and travel bans. Delta Air Lines reported a 95 percent drop in April compared to the year prior, according to its latest earnings report. Airlines across the board are cutting schedules drastically. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said during a call with analysts that air travel levels may not return to normal for three years.
The Times makes the majority of its money from print subscribers. It earned $623.4 million in print subscription revenue last year. Some of those accounts also come with digital subscriptions. The company made an additional $460.4 million in digital-only subscriptions and other subscriptions like specific Cooking or Crossword section subscribers.
In total, the Times had 5,251,000 subscriptions across its print and digital products in over 225 countries at the end of 2019, according to SEC filings.
The publication has seen an increasing number of subscriptions and readership since coronavirus hit the U.S. According to an internal memo, on March 11, it saw 19,000 new subscriptions in one day. Typically, it sees about 4,000 to 5,000 new subscriptions daily. The Times declined to comment on the figures.
However, advertising revenue is down across the media industry. Though some sectors like alcoholic beverages and pharmaceuticals are increasing marketing, most advertisers are pausing or cutting back their campaigns until there’s more clarity on how long the pandemic will last. One media buying agency said there has been a 25 percent decrease in clients' advertising spends, with many companies halting spending when they can, especially on digital advertising.
Last year, the Times brought in $270.2 million in print ads and an additional $260.5 million in digital advertising. The company’s next quarterly earnings report is on May 6, when investors will get a closer look at the impact of the coronavirus on ad spending at the paper.
Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the revenue figures for the New York Times. The company earned $623.4 million in print subscription revenue last year, not last quarter.