Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New York Times Delivers Some Not Terrible News: Earnings, Ad Sales Better Than Expected

new-york-times-buildingThe New York Times announced plans to cut eight percent of its newsroom payroll this week, citing “economic thunderstorms,” which suggested that this morning’s earnings results were going to be particularly unpleasant.

Surprise! They’re not that awful, at least by the diminished standards of the newspaper industry:

Excluding one-time charges, the publisher earned 16 cents per share on revenue of $570 million. Analysts expected the Times (NYT) to lose a penny per share on revenue of $561 million.

Ad revenue declined 26.9 percent, which is unpleasant but better than the previous quarter, when it dropped 30.2 percent. Internet revenue dropped by 7.2 percent and Internet ad revenue was down 8.2 percent. Both of those results are improvements over the previous quarter as well: Last quarter, Internet revenue was down 14.3 percent and Internet ad revenue was down 15.5 percent.

Some cautious optimism from CEO Janet Robinson:

Looking ahead, visibility remains limited for advertising in the fourth quarter. But as is the case across the media sector, we have seen encouraging signs of improvement in the overall economy and in discussions with our advertisers. Early in the fourth quarter, print advertising trends, in comparison to the third quarter, have improved modestly, while digital advertising trends are improving more significantly.

A little more color on digital: The big improvement this quarter was driven by a turnaround at the Times’s content mill: Revenue was up 7.2 percent, way up from the 5.1 percent decline posted in the previous quarter. This makes sense, given that About is driven by pay-per-click ads and these have come back across the industry, led by Google (GOOG).

But the story is less impressive at the Times’s traditional Web sites. Ad revenue there was down 18.5 percent, which is better than the 21.6 percent drop the previous quarter, but nothing to write home about. As it has done in previous quarters, the publisher blames the decline on a drop in online classifieds, and I assume that much of the drop stems from vaporized employment ads. If this is the case, it’s going to be hard to move those numbers significantly for quite some time.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik