So: The good news! The New York Times Company earned a profit! After bleak first-quarter results, the Times was able to eke out a small profit of $39.1 million.
Then there are the more troubling signs: Internet advertising revenue went down again, this time 14.3 percent. But during a conference call with investors this morning, Denise Warren, the general manager of nytimes.com, was quick to defend the numbers.
Ms. Warren said that last year the Times had a “really, really, really” robust second quarter and that they were “up against” that. Though digital only makes up 13.4 amount of total revenues, the Times is given to wild exuberance when it comes to how much money it brings in. Bill Keller said at a staff meeting earlier this summer that it makes “a lot, a lot of money.”
CEO Janet Robinson said that the Times cleans up against all competition, which basically means: Sure, there isn’t much money to be made there, but at least the Times can claim the lion’s share of the pocket change!
After Ms. Warren spoke, head of digital operations Martin Nisenholtz came on the call and said that he couldn’t tell you exactly how much money nytimes.com makes, but let’s just put it this way: Yahoo announced this week that it had a 14 percent decline in display advertising. The Times’ display performance was “better than that,” he said.
In other conference call news: Times executives were very proud of their debt reduction. At the end of the last quarter it was $1.3 billion. Today, it’s $1 billion.
On circulation, Ms. Robinson said that the increased revenues from circulation was “encouraging” and after raising the newsstand price that “cancellations were well below our expectations.”
She added that the sale of the Times’ minority interest in the Red Sox and Fenway Park was “moving ahead” and she expected a sale by the end of the year.
Then, she talked Internet: that the Times is studying how many people would feel comfortable paying for nytimes.com and—as we reported first—that they are considering two systems: the meter and the contribution model. She said she would have more to say at third-quarter earnings report.
The Times is beginning to turn the conference call into an art. After Ms. Robinson and CFO Jim Follo spoke for about 20 minutes, they took only about 15 minutes of questions—far fewer than in the past. Maybe there were actually fewer questions? Or maybe the Times is learning less is more.
Either way, Wall Street seemed pleased. As of this writing, Times Company stock is inching toward $7.
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