New York Times Company Q4 Results: Classifieds and Display Ads Revenues are Down

Before I talk about the New York Times Company results, a quick note. As we plunge deeper into a recession, online and offline media companies are impacted but it’s difficult to tell what will be the overall impact of this economic slowdown.  Since last week, I’ve started discussing quarterly conference calls from media companies in this blog as I feel this is where we can extract the most valuable information in the short term (and I’m a bit tired of Techcrunch covering every little new Twitter application out there…  ) Hope you like this direction!

Now, back to the NYT Q4 results unveiled yesterday (transcript at Seeking Alpha).  Here are some interesting insights from Janet Robinson, President and CEO and Martin Nisenholtz, Senior Vice President, Digital Operations

On advertising revenues:

The NYT saw “a weakening of revenues as the economy declined and advertisers pulled back on placements.” (…) “Total revenues for the company declined 10.8%, with ad revenues down 17.6%”

“Classified advertising declined in all three major categories; real estates, recruitment and automotive.” (…) “Half of the declines are attributable to one category across the company and that’s help-wanted, so it’s a very targeted decline.”

On circulation revenues:

The continued strength of our brand was evident in the willingness of our readers to pay higher prices for our newspapers, which in turn is reflected in the growth of our circulation revenues.” Circulation revenues were up 3.7%

On digital revenues:

“Digital revenues decreased in the quarter, as online marketers reduced display ads in response to deteriorating business conditions.” (…) “For the year, our online ad revenues at the News Media Group grew 8.7% with NYTimes.com significantly outpacing the industry in the growth of its display advertising.” (..) “At the About Group, total revenues decreased 2.9% to $29.8 million, as display advertising softened. Cost-per-click advertising rose in the mid single-digits.” (…) “In total, internet businesses accounted for 12% of the company’s revenues in the fourth quarter versus 11% in the 2007 fourth quarter.”

On display ads:

“The notion that we’re seeing or we have seen an increasing amount of inventory on the marketplace and we’ve seen that pouring on for the last year or so through the social networks and through other what I would call, non-traditional content companies. And then the second thing that has happened this year has been the real onslaught of the advertising network business. There are over 300 ad networks in the space now. And so, the combination of those two things has put some pressure on rate.”

On the future:

“To-date in January, the greatest decline in print advertising has accelerated from what we saw in December, while that of digital is similar to last month.”

What it means: classifieds and display ads revenues seem to be very soft in this economy.  Cost-per-click seems to be holding (we saw the same insight from the Yahoo Q4 call). Online might be holding its own better than print. The increase in circulation revenues makes me think relevant content from trusted brands is still key.

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