Ken Doctor reporting:
Call it an acceleration of the digital transition. Those are the
words that best describe this morning’s New York Times Co. Q3 financial report and conference call.
Take the month of October — the biggest ad revenue month of the year for the Times.
Digital advertising will be up about 15 percent this month, says
Times Co. chief financial officer Jim Follo, but print advertising will
be down about 10 percent, with total ad revenue down 5 percent. The
delta is widening, though these are not placid waters. Choppy or
“volatile,” as CEO Mark Thompson said, repeating that word many times to
describe the ups and downs of print ad revenue. “Inexplicable” is
another word Thompson used, trying to explain the vagaries of managing a
declining, if still valuable, print ad business.
...Overall, the Times reported adjusted operating profit at $40 million, down $5 million a year ago.
Much more important to understand than these bottom line numbers are
the ones that illustrate the quickening acceleration to digital.
Look only at the income results of the quarter — an overall 0.8
percent increase in revenues — and you’d miss the drama of that
volatility. What seems like a smooth drive is actually quite a bumpy
journey. Advertising is moving profoundly (but haphazardly) from print
to digital, as are readers. While the Times could count 44,000 new
digital subscribers in the quarter, a 20 percent year-over-year
increase, it lost 5.2 percent of its daily print readers — and, more
worryingly, 3.5 percent of its Sunday print subscribers. The Times
already counts more digital subs than print ones, and the divide is widening...