Higher online circulation was a small bright spot in an otherwise gloomy earnings report for the New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), which is still looking for a CEO who can implement a comprehensive digital strategy.
The NYT Co numbers, announced this morning, showed operating profit for Q4 declined to $106.6 million compared to $111.6 million for the same period a year ago. Revenues fell to $643 million, a 2.8% drop off.
The company’s earnings were $0.39 per share which is lower than the $0.41 analysts had predicted. The number reflects one-off charges, including severance costs tied to former CEO Janet Robinson who was forced out in December. Without the special charges, the company would have posted earnings of $0.45 per share.
In the bigger picture, the announcement reflects the familiar story of a newspaper property facing advertising declines that have yet to be offset by new digital dollars.
Revenue from print advertising fell 7.8% and digital advertising revenues dropped too — by 4.9%.
The drop in digital revenues would be a cause for alarm but for the fact that they stem from a drop in cost-per-click and display advertising at the About.com group.
If About.com is excluded, digital revenues at the New Media Group (which includes core properties like the Times) grew by 10% to $233.5 million.
Also encouraging is a 20% increase in digital subscribers which coincides with an expanded use of paywalls at the company.
Total paid subscribers to digital subscription packages, e-readers and replica editions of The Times and the International Herald Tribune totaled approximately 390,000 at the end of the year. The Boston Globe equivalents had 16,000 paid subscribers.
The numbers did not reflect the company’s recent sale of its Regional Media Group of sixteen newspapers in the south. The sale will result in proceeds of about $150 million, including tax benefits, which the company is expected to use to further its digital strategy.
In morning trading, NYT Co shares were off about 1.3% to $7.57.
paidContent will have more analysis following an earnings call that is taking place later this morning.