New York Times reconciles with declining ad revenues

The New York Times Co. said Thursday core earnings in the past quarter were lifted by gains in online subscriptions

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The New York Times Co. said Thursday core earnings in the past quarter were lifted by gains in online subscriptions, helping offset declines in print and digital ad revenues.

Results reported Thursday showed a fourth quarter profit of $65.6 million, compared with $178 million in the same period a year earlier, which was largely from a one-time gain from spinning off its stake in an online jobs website.

Total fourth-quarter revenues fell 5.2 percent to $443.9 million with circulation revenues down 3.9 percent and advertising revenues falling 6.3 percent.

The company said paid subscribers to digital-only subscription packages rose 19 percent from a year earlier to 760,000 as of the end of the fourth quarter and brought in $39.1 million in the final three months of the year.

That helped offsets quarterly drops in print and digital advertising revenues, down 6.3 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.

The results suggest some progress for the prestigious U.S. daily newspaper as it seeks get rid of its non-core assets and get more money from readers, especially in digital.

"Our 2013 results reflect progress in some of the fundamentals of our business," said president and chief executive officer Mark Thompson.

Thompson said that "advertising revenue showed notable improvement in the second half of the year" and that "the fourth quarter saw more growth in our digital subscription business than either the second or third quarters."

"Throughout the year, we continued to make progress in solidifying our balance sheet and in significantly improving the underfunded status of our qualified pension plans," Thompson said in the earnings statement.

The Times began its paywall strategy in 2011 and has been emphasizing digital as print circulation and advertising decline.

In 2012, the company said it took in more revenues from circulation than advertising for the first time, and that trend continued in 2013.

For the full year, circulation revenues rose 3.7 to $824 million while ad revenues slipped 6.3 percent to $666 million.

The overall profit for the year dropped by half to $65.1 million.

In October, the company completed its sale of the New England Media Group which includes the Boston Globe.

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