New York Times Company Quarterly Conference Call: Total Revenue Down 18.6 Percent; Debt at $1.3 Billion

One day after The New York Times received five Pulitzer Prizes, The New York Times Company said in its 2009 First-Quarter conference call that total revenue had declined 18.6 percent. The company’s debt at the end of the quarter totaled $1.3 billion.

According to the Times Company’s press release this morning, the company suffered an “operating loss of $61.6 million compared with operating profit of $6.2 million in the first quarter of 2008.”

In the release, Ms. Robinson conceded that, “The effect of the global economic downturn, coupled with the secular changes affecting newspapers, resulted in significant declines in revenues. Advertisers pulled back on print placements in all categories – national, retail and especially classified. Digital revenues also declined, although modestly, as a result of the weakening economy.”

Some cost-saving measures mentioned in the nearly hour-long call (audio here) included a consolidation of The Boston Globe‘s printing facilities that resulted in $9 million in savings and a staff reduction of 15% from last year.

As far as online goes, Ms. Robinson said, “Twice we have experimented with charging for Times content.” She noted that gets got 52.3 million unique visitors in March 2009 and told investors that The Times had looked at the business models of thirty organizations to determine new opportunities for online revenue. “We continue to explore payment models.” Near the end of the call, she reminded investors that, “this isn’t just a print company anymore.”

If Business Insider’s Henry Blodget’s numbers crunching is to be believed, it might not even be that!

“At the current rate of cash consumption, assuming no one-time expenses (highly unlikely), we estimate that the company will max out its current borrowing capacity in 4 quarters,” Mr. Blodget wrote this morning. “At that point, it will owe about $1.2 billion in debt.”

As far as the The Times Pulitzer wins go, Ms. Robinson said, “this speaks to the extraordinary work done by our journalists in a broad range of areas” and noted, “we continue to see high quality journalism is valued by readers and advertisers.”

New York Times Company Quarterly Conference Call: Total Revenue Down 18.6 Percent; Debt at $1.3 Billion