Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

As Predicted, a Not-Terrible Quarter for the New York Times: Print Ads Shrink Less, and the Web Actually Grows

As predicted, a nice Q4 for the New York Times, at least by newspaper standards: Revenue shrank, but not as badly as in the past, and operating costs continued to come down.

The paper reported earnings of 44 cents per share (after factoring out one-time items) on revenue of $681 million; Wall Street was expecting earnings of 38 cents on revenue of $653.7 million.

Both official and unofficial word from inside the Times indicated that the paper had a not-terrible Q4. In December, the company had already told Wall Street that it expected to see print ads decline about 25 percent and Web advertising bounce back by 10 percent.

Today’s numbers were a little better than that: Print ads were down 20 percent, and digital ads were up 11 percent. Overall ad revenue was down 15 percent, while Internet revenue was up 10.3 percent.

In Q3, the paper saw ad revenue drop 26.9 percent, while Internet revenue dropped by 7.2 percent. Bear in mind that year-ago numbers were miserable, so improving on them is a tempered success.

Expect more of the same going forward, the paper said: “Looking ahead, visibility remains limited for advertising. In the first quarter of 2010, we expect the rate of decline for print advertising to continue to improve modestly from the fourth quarter of 2009, while digital advertising is expected to perform in line with the fourth-quarter level.”

Given that the New York Times (NYT) was already relatively optimistic about the quarter before it announced plans to erect a pay wall, it’s safe to assume that today’s results will have zero impact on that schedule.

But given that the paper hasn’t said a lot about those plans publicly, it will be worth listening to today’s earnings call to see if it offers more clarity. Plus, of course, the obligatory discussion about the Times’s plans for Apple’s (AAPL) iPad. I’ll be covering the call live at 11 am Eastern.

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