TheStreet CEO Lundberg: Subscriptions up almost 7% in 2018
TheStreet.com chief executive officer and chief financial officer Eric Lundberg made the following comments during the company’s earnings conference call on Tuesday:
Those of you that follow our company closely already know that premium subscription revenue is approximately 70% of our total consumer revenue and net bookings, conversion rates, renewal rates, subscriber count and deferred revenue are all very important metrics of our business. We are extremely encouraged by the positive trends we have seen in our bookings from both quarterly and full year perspectives. We have seen year-over-year growth each quarter in bookings as well as full year growth for the year. Bookings were up almost 7% for the year, our conversion rates have grown from 48% in 2017 to 62% in December of ‘18. Our renewal rates have also grown 72% in December of ‘18 compared to 67% in 2017. We will continue to build on the momentum in 2019.
We are also seeing some great trends in subscriber count. Total premium subscriber count has grown each of the last seven months of the year on a sequential basis and our average paid count grew year-over-year for each quarter in 2018. For the full year, our paid count grew by 3,702 subscriptions or almost 7%. From a deferred revenue perspective, bookings in paid count drove premium deferred revenues up $1.1 million or 12% at year end. Deferred revenue is obviously a very helpful leading indicator of expected revenues in the future, so we will be doing all we can to keep that trend moving in the right direction. As a brief reminder, deferred revenue December ‘17 versus December ‘16 was down $300,000 or 3%. That negative 3% is now compared to a positive 12% 1 year later. That change is fantastic. Following the completion of the sale of our institutional businesses as I mentioned earlier in the call, our Board and management team have been working tirelessly to determine the best path forward for our remaining B2C business and we have identified areas of opportunity that we can begin to focus to drive profitability in the business and achieve value and enhance the value on behalf of our stockholders.
Another area we are excited about is education. Our goal is to provide everyone both novice and experienced investors with the tools and knowledge to feel confident about their financial future. We will be providing you with more details about some of the exciting initiatives we are working on shortly. Additionally, going forward, we are keenly focused on editorial quality, targeted editorial content, focus and production. We have implemented a new editorial leadership and organizational structure as well as new job descriptions and monthly production goals for each person in the newsroom.
As a result of our efforts so far in January of 2019, our production rose to over 1,000 stories for the month and we beat our traffic in advertising goals for the month. You will remember that advertising declined $3 million last year. Additionally, tracking the impact of lead generation in orders on the incremental production and increased traffic is critical to us to ensure that we are increasing the pub count and focusing on the correct themes and topics. More quality traffic on our free site is our best source of lead for our paid products. With the two asset sales completed and a cash distribution to stockholders on the way, our full attention is now turned to our consumer business. We believe there is a lot of value to be recognized within our business and we will be focusing our efforts on supporting and growing the consumer business to that end. It’s actually funny to think that 20 years later we are back to being what first made us a success. Once again, we are consumer-facing financial news, information and education company, that delivers exceptional coverage and analysis of the financial markets, along with best-in-class subscription products and events.