'The Daily' Is 'On Target' to 'Break Even' in 'Five Years'

Here’s today’s fascinating and maybe really unlikely media assertion from the Times: “A $30 million tablet-only news publication… with 100,000 subscribers paying 99 cents a week or $39.99 a year, and 250,000 unique readers each month, The Daily is on target to break even in five years.”

Hooray! They made it! Just five short years to breaking even. Well, it… could be.

“News Corp. has spent $30 million on development (which has been ‘written off’) of The Daily and current costs are less than $500,000 per week,” according to Folio, a year ago. Okay, so maybe if you attributed the original $30 million to News Corp. itself and disregard it, that’s… possible. Business Insider: “Add $30 million to startup and $26 million per year, and The Daily cost $56 million to run in year one.” Now, I don’t think it came to that; I think the $30 million was more like start-up costs and two years of budget. Even so: Nieman Journalism Lab estimated “$13.5 million in annual staff costs,” at 150 employees. (But I think it’s fewer than that, more like 100 employees. So correct that downward to… $8 or $9 million.) In the end, even ditching the $30 million from the balance sheet (which most media companies don’t exactly get to do), and skewing the staff downward and then assuming that all 100,000 subscribers are paying full freight, that’s still only conceivably at most $5 million a year in subscriber revenue. (I’d be charitable and throw in another million a year for web advertising, but the only ads I ever see on web content are for The Daily itself.)

So by what possible metric can the Times make the claim the paper is “on target to break even in five years”? (“On target” being a favorite vague-ism.) What possible growth trend forecast do you have to buy from the publisher to accept that as fact?