Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New York Times: November Was So Terrible, Even Our Internet Ads Were Down

Earlier this month, executives at the New York Times (NYT) warned investors that they had a miserable November. They weren’t kidding.

The grim details are here, but I’ll save you some time:

  • Revenue was down 13.9 percent, an acceleration from October’s 9.4 percent drop.
  • Ad revenue was down 20.9 percent, an acceleration from October’s 16.2 percent drop.
  • The really awful news: Internet ad revenue and overall Internet revenue actually declined in November, down 3.8 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

In the good old days of 2007, the Times could at least say that while print revenue growth was slowing to a halt, Internet ad sales were growing quickly. By last month, the best thing you could say about Internet revenue at the Times was that it was still growing a little bit. Now that’s gone, too.

For the record, the Times says that it was still able to register “moderate” display ad growth at its newspapers, but that its online classifieds and real estate ads had gotten crushed, for obvious reasons. And over at About.com, which until now has been the bright spot on the Times’s financials, display ads shrank, wiping out out “moderate” growth in cost-per click ads.

And expect more of the same in December and in 2009. Martin Nisenholtz, the Times’s digital boss, has already warned investors that the “softness in November” would “accelerate into December” and that “next year is going to be a different year, by a fairly profound margin.”

Per usual, the one bit of good news in the Times’s numbers is that its readers continue to value its publications enough to pay for them: Circulation revenues increased 4.2 percent. But if the Times can’t convince advertisers to pay, too, that’s not going to matter. Happy holidays!


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work