The New York Times Co. reported a shrunken third-quarter loss Thursday on ad revenue that remains stubbornly in decline.
For the third-quarter, the Times Co. loss was $35.6 million, or 25 cents a share. That's down considerably from a year ago, when it reported a loss of $106.3 million, or 74 cents a share, but much of that was the result of a $160 million non-cash write-down on the value of The Boston Globe and it other New England newspapers.
Excluding severance and other charges, the Times Co. said it turned a profit of 16 cents a share, up from 5 cents a share a year ago.
Like other newspaper publishers, the Times Co. reported the results of deep cuts in expenses, with operating costs down 21.6 percent from a year ago. By the end of 2009, the Times Co. expects to wring nearly a half-billion dollars—$475 million—from its operating costs.
Times Co. President and CEO Janet Robinson joined the ranks of other newspaper executives reporting third-quarter results in saying there are "encouraging signs of improvement in the overall economy" and in advertising.
"Early in the fourth quarter, print advertising trends, in comparison to the third quarter, have improved modestly, while digital advertising trends are improving more significantly," Robinson said.
Nevertheless, she said, "visibility remains limited for advertising in the fourth quarter."
In the third quarter, ad revenue fell 26.9 percent, pushing down overall revenue to $570.6 million, a decline of 16.9 percent from a year ago. The ad revenue drop is an improvement over the 30 percent decline in the second quarter of 2009, but the year-ago comparisons are getting easier.
In its newspaper publishing unit News Media Group, total revenue fell 18 percent as ad revenue swooned 29.6 percent.
Print newspaper advertising was down 31.2 percent, and online advertising declined 18.5 percent.
Poor classified results were behind those numbers. Newspaper classified dropped 38.3 percent on big declines in all major categories: automotive, down 32.1 percent, real estate, down 44.1 percent and help-wanted, down 52.5 percent.
Newspaper retail advertising revenue was off 25.1 percent and national down 28.5 percent.
Circulation revenue increased 6.7 percent in the quarter on price increases at the flagship New York Times and Boston Globe.
The Times Co. also said its debt has been reduced by $140 million from the end of last year.
Robinson noted that earlier this month, the Times Co. completed the sale of WQXR-FM, its classical radio station in New York City, for gross proceeds of $45 million, which were used to pay down debt.
She said the company is "moving ahead" with the potential sale of its stake in New England Sports Ventures, which includes the Boston Red Sox baseball team and the cable channel New England Sports Network.
Nielsen Business Media