A Casual Look Through The New York Times Co.’s Annual SEC Filing

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As all publicly traded companies must, the The New York Times filed its annual 10-K report with the SEC yesterday (click here for the actual filing). The document, which among other things functions as a kind of check-up on a company’s financial health, contains a few nuggets of insight as to how the Times fared in 2009. It’s generally boring and difficult to read, so we’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some of the more gripping passages and passing them along to you.

Note: This is an extremely fleeting and unsophisticated look through a complicated document, with an eye more to entertainment (if that’s possible) than anything else. With that out of the way, let’s begin!


The 10-K’s “Risk Factors” section, always a fun read when it comes to media companies, registers a grim but familiar tale of the news industry’s latest troubles:

Economic weakness and uncertainty in the United States, in the regions in which we operate and in key advertising categories has adversely affected and may continue to adversely affect our advertising revenues.

And:

All of our businesses face substantial competition for advertisers and audiences.

Including:

The increasing popularity of digital media and the progressing shift in consumer habits and advertising expenditures from traditional to digital media may adversely affect our revenues if we are unable to successfully grow our digital businesses.

(Go blogs!)

Not to mention:

If we are unable to retain and grow our digital audience and advertiser base, our digital businesses will be adversely affected.

Duh.

Okay, enough with the poetic descriptions of the Gray Lady’s angst — it’s time to look at some indicators of costs and revenues! Look out literary types, there are a lot of numbers ahead.

The New York Times Co. as a whole swung to a profit of $19.9 million in 2009, from a loss of $57.8 million in 2008. The New York Times paper and related properties contributed 65% of 2009 revenues, with 35% of revenues coming from other news organizations the paper owns (like the Boston Globe).

And now, a look at the print numbers:

Average paid weekday circulation declined, to 959,000 in 2009 from 1.03 million in 2008. Weekend circulation also took a hit, coming in at 1.41 million in 2009 vs. 1.45 million in 2008.

Citing a study by TNS Media Intelligence, the Times claims it had the largest market share of ad revenue “among a national newspaper set that consists of USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Times.” The company went on to say that it owns the New York metropolitan area: “we believe the Times ranks first by a substantial margin.” Hooray!

Over in online: NYTimes.com reached 17.9 million unique visitors per month in 2009.

The Times then went on to discuss its fiscal situation as it relates to outstanding labor contracts. Its union obligations have not historically made for a rosy outlook, balance-sheet wise, so let’s take a look at where things stand now.

The Times, the paper, employed 1,870 union workers as of the end of the year, 2009. Upcoming union contract expiration dates include: 2011 for mailers and members of the New York Newspaper Guild, and 2012 for electricians and machinists.

On the bright side, Editor and Publisher notes that two of the Times’ biggest problems — debt and labor obligations — appear to have gotten somewhat better in 2009. Without government help, the company’s underfunded pension obligations would have been $535 million in 2008. This year, they’re down to an estimated $420 million. It also decreased its debt to $769 million from $1.1 billion.

That’s right. A rosy year for The Times Co. means “only” $420 million in underfunded pension obligations and “only” $769 million in debt. Yikes.

Correction: We had the debt-reduction numbers wrong originally. We wrote: “It also decreased its debt by 41% to $1.1 billion,” and, “A rosy year for The Times Co. means ‘only’ $420 million in underfunded pension obligations and ‘only’ $1.1 billion in debt.” The corrected sentences are in the final two paragraphs.