New York Times Sees Intensifying Advertiser Pullback In First Quarter

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The advertising outlook for newspapers is going from awful to horrendous. The New York Times announced first quarter earnings today, revealing that total advertising revenues for its news media group (which includes the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and other regional newspapers) declined 28.4 percent, versus an 18.4 percent declinelast quarter. So the rate of decline for is intensifying

Internet advertising revenues declined 6.1 percent to $67.6 million, compared to a 3.5 percent decline last quarter. The advertising situation at About.com is more “anemic” than at NYTimes.com, although cost-per-click rates at About.com seem to be holding up. Total advertising revenues were $335 million in the quarter and all revenues, including circulation, were $609 million. The company as a whole posted a net loss of $74.2 million. In other words, the New York Times lost more money across the board than it made from Internet advertising.

The newspaper has been trimming staff, cutting costs, and selling assets to meet its financial obligations. CEO Janet Robinson expects advertising revenues to decline in the second quarter at a rate “similar to that of the first.” But from her talks with advertisers she gets the sense that they are “saving dollars in the first half” of the year to possible spend more in the second half, if they can. (In other words, they are holding back and taking a wait-and-see approach, which is smart in this economy).

During the conference call, she also noted that the company is exploring new ways to generate online revenues beyond advertising, but cautioned that the new revenue models would have to be additive “without affecting the display advertising business.” She didn’t specify where those alternative revenues would come from, whether from some new micropayment scheme or somewhere else.

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