September 30, 2023

Profit Down At Times Co., But Web Plan Shows Upside

The company said net income fell 57.6 percent, to $5.4 million, compared with $12.8 million in the quarter a year ago.

The weakness in print advertising, coupled with an unexpected drop in revenue at, led to earnings of 4 cents a share before special items were excluded, compared with 8 cents a share in the period a year ago.

The Times did report growth in one significant area. In the first glimpse at how its digital subscription plan is faring, the company said it had signed up more than 100,000 subscribers since March 28, when it began limiting the number of articles that visitors to could read free. While it said the program was still too young to be declared a success, early signs indicated that readers were responding well.

“While the advertising marketplace remains challenging, we are confident the path we have been pursuing to transform our company is the right one,” Janet L. Robinson, chief executive of the Times Company, said in a conference call with analysts on Thursday.

Full-price digital subscriptions start at $15 and renew every four weeks, but most subscribers have paid a discounted introductory rate of 99 cents for four weeks of access. The number of subscribers who have renewed at full price has been strong so far, Ms. Robinson said.

She said The Times had also noticed an increase in subscriptions to the print edition of the paper, which she said was a result of print subscribers receiving free digital access. Traffic to, which the company had estimated could drop by around 15 percent once it started charging for access, has been on par with expectations, she added.

The Times’s results did not reflect any revenue from the start of the online subscription model, which began after the first quarter ended. The company said it expected to see a positive impact from digital subscriptions in the second quarter.

First-quarter revenue at the Times Company dropped 3.6 percent, to $566.5 million in the first quarter. Total advertising revenue declined 4.4 percent, but the performance by company sector varied widely. At The New York Times Media Group, which includes the namesake paper, and The International Herald Tribune, the decline was 1.9 percent.

Digital advertising across the company grew 4.5 percent. As a percentage of the company’s total advertising revenue, digital was 28 percent, up from 25.6 percent a year earlier.

At the New England Media Group, which includes The Boston Globe, advertising revenue fell 5.1 percent. At the Regional Media Group, which includes local newspapers from Florida to California, the decline was 9.7 percent.

At, which experienced a loss in visitors after Google adjusted its algorithms to filter search results with more precision, revenue dropped 10.2 percent.

Advertising at traditional media sectors has generally bounced back since the end of the recession, but newspapers, at least the print products, have been left out of the rebound. According to the Newspaper Association of America, advertising revenue across the industry declined 6.3 percent in 2010, to $25.8 billion, despite 11 percent growth in digital advertising. According to Nielsen, the media research company, advertising on cable television was up 13.9 percent in 2010, to $27.4 billion. Network television advertising grew 5.9 percent, to $25.6 billion. National magazines advertising grew 4 percent. “Newspapers are suffering from market share loss, the perception that the number of eyeballs are decreasing and the perception that newspaper advertising is expensive relative to other media,” said Doug Arthur, a managing director of Evercore, an advisory and investment firm.

Operating costs at the Times Company were essentially flat at $535.4 million. Rising newsprint costs continued to weigh on the company. They rose 12.7 percent, offset partly by other factors, including a drop in circulation. Circulation revenue fell 3.7 percent, to $228 million.

The company ended the quarter with $352 million in cash and short-term investments, a lower amount than at the end of 2010 because of $54 million in pension contributions.

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