Newspaper Sites Report Strong Q4 Ad Growth

NEW YORK The New York Times Co. and Knight Ridder said they saw strong advertiser demand for their online properties in the fourth quarter.

The Times reported fourth-quarter online ad sales up nearly 35 percent from the same period in 2003. The Times said it saw online gains in national, retail and classified advertising. (The company stopped breaking out its online arm’s results in the third quarter of 2004.) Online ad growth outpaced the 3.2 percent ad rise for the overall company.

Knight Ridder said its online unit posted fourth-quarter sales of $31.2 million, up 43 percent from a year ago. Operating income from the unit was $8.8 million, double the figure from the same quarter in 2004.

For the full year, Knight Ridder’s online operations contributed $36 million in profit, compared to $15.2 million in 2003.

The company also reported average monthly visitors to Knight Ridder sites in 2004 were up 24 percent from 2003.

Leonard Forman, CFO at The Times, downplayed the likelihood that the company would move its Web site to a subscription model, which chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. suggested earlier this month. He described internal debates over the wisdom charging for site access as “perennial.”

“Right now, growing ad revenues and continuing to grow it at the rate we have been, is really critical for us,” he said.

Janet Robinson, The Times CEO, said sections of would be redesigned this year, paving the way for additional advertising gains. recently overhauled its auto section. She said, the Web site for The Boston Globe, would introduce a site-registration requirement in the coming months. Registration, which has required since its launch, will allow the company to offer more targeted advertising on, Robinson said.