Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New York Times: Our Digital Ads “Could Be Under Great Stress”

A glum quartet of New York Times (NYT) executives appeared at the UBS media conference today to repeat what they had already said via press release this morning: Business is grim, but we’re sure we’ll be OK. Also, anyone want to lend us money?

There was just a glimmer of news at the event, though it wasn’t surprising or pleasant: The Times’s Web business is falling away, day by day.

Digital head Martin Nisenholtz said revenue at his unit had been OK until the last two months of the year, but that there had been “softness in November, accelerating into December…next year is going to be a different year, by a fairly profound margin.”

Bear in mind that the Times’s digital performance pre-November was grim to begin with–digital revenue grew just 4.3 percent in October–and it becomes possible to imagine that digital revenue will decrease for at least part of 2009.

Nisenholtz didn’t do anything rash like attach any numbers to his comments, but he did add a little bit of color: His unit, which is boosted by cost-per-click/search ads, is still doing OK-ish. But the business of selling display ads to Times Web sites is getting pummeled, and could be “under great stress” next year, he says.

So if is doing (comparatively) well, why not sell that asset to help the paper escape its cash crunch? I asked CEO Janet Robinson that question after the event. She did everything but insist that the paper would never part with, and praised it up and down–“an extremely important part of our digital future,” etc.

But given a couple chances to do so, she never explicitly ruled out a sale. Given the paper’s position, I don’t think she can.

[Image Credit: 1962 NYC Newspaper Strike photo from Life/Google archive)

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