If you needed any more indication that these are hard times for print journalism, even The New York Times is experiencing continued losses.
The granddaddy of American journalism announced Thursday that profits sank 12% in the fourth quarter, as net income fell to $58.9 million, or 39 cents per share, from $67.1 million, or 44 cents per share the previous year. Profits also missed analysts' consensus estimates of 42 cents a share.
The above figures factored in severance and pensions, including departing CEO Janet Robinson's sizable payout, as well as several other items, which if not applied brings earnings-per-share to share prices up to 44 cents a share.
Shares for New York Times, Co., which had experienced a 30% increase over the past three months, were down 2% to $7.49 in Thursday trading.
Overall revenue fell 2.8% to $643 million in the quarter from $661.7 million in the year-ago period, as advertising sales dropped 7.1%, with print advertising declining nearly 8%.
In the News Media Group, digital advertising revenues rose 5.3%, due to a rise in national and retail display advertising. Circulation revenues rose as the addition of digital subscription offerings at The Times offset a decline in print copies sold across the News Media Group.
Subscription revenue increased by 5% to bring in $241.6 million. This increased subscription revenue came, perhaps as a result of the company launching its much publicized digital pay wall. Paid digital subscriptions increased by 20% to about 390,000, for the NY Times and International Herald Tribune.
In the Digital businesses group, which includes NYTimes.com, BostonGlobe.com, Boston.com, About.com, other Company Web sites and related digital products, total digital advertising revenue declined 4.9% to $95.7 million due to declines in cost-per-click and display advertising at the About Group.
The storied newspaper began 2012 without having replaced longtime CEO Janet Robinson, who stepped down in December 2011. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. has served as interim boss at the NY Times, until the company is able to find a permanent replacement. Robinson received a $4.5 million payout after resigning.
The New York Times Co. recently sold some of its holdings in Fenway Sports Group, a company the affiliates of which include the Boston Red Sox. NY Times Co. sold 100 of its 310 units, at $300,000 per unit. In July 2011, New York Times Co. had sold 390 units of the Fenway Sports Group at the same price. The company would not divulge who is buying the shares.
In December 2011, New York Times Co. also sold its Regional Media Group, a news company consisting of 16 newspapers, for $143 million.
"In 2011 we made significant strides in our strategy to transform and rebalance our Company," said Sulzberger, in the company's release. "Our fourth-quarter results demonstrate the continued focus on building The Times's digital subscription base and developing a new robust consumer revenue stream, while maintaining its significant digital advertising business."
One of the downsides of the advent of digital technology is the necessary obsolescence of older media. But print journalism, as exemplified in The New York Times, is something that our culture should do everything it can to preserve. Let's hope that these downward trending numbers will level out soon.