From Macro to Micro: The New York Times

Last Updated Aug 26, 2008 2:55 PM EDT

Yesterday we took the long view on Internet advertising; today's let's zoom in on one company: The New York Times. The way trend lines are crossing in the media business from print to online these days are illustrated by just one month's figures for this one publishing company.

July 2008:

Total company revenues decreased 10.1 percent compared with July last year; overall advertising revenue decreased 16.2 percent and circulation revenue decreased slightly at 0.5 percent.

The Times breaks its operations into groups -- the "New York Group" saw a 15.3 percent drop in advertising revenue; the "New England Group" a 24.5 percent drop; the "Regional Group" -18.1 percent.

Down. Down. Down, all at unsustainable levels.

However, next look at the Internet advertising picture. The "About Group," which mainly consists of the acquisition About.com, rose 14.6 percent. What the Times calls its "Internet Businesses" grew their advertising revenue by 5.5 percent in July.

At this point, online businesses account for one-eighth of the Times' overall revenues, up from less than one-ninth a year ago. The company's online audience grew 38 percent over the past year to reach 50.2 million visits in July.

Clearly, there is plenty of upside for this media company, but it is located squarely in its online activities. Anytime 7/8ths of your company's operating revenues are falling by more than 16 percent and the other eighth is generating positive growth of from 5.5 to 14.6 percent, deciding where to place your next investment dollar is not exactly rocket science.

Which is exactly what dissident shareholders have been trying to tell the Times' management for the past year. It's all in the numbers...

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.