New York Times: Can a New Strategy Compensate for Ad Declines?
The New York Times Company's CEO Mark Thompson took to the earnings call to outline his strategy to turn the struggling publisher into a multi-platform, international content giant. The CEO's first full quarter since he took the helm of the storied publisher in November was not pretty: the top and bottom line were dragged down by an 11 percent decline in advertising revenue.
It's no surprise that print advertising continues to decline by double digits—it was down 13 percent in the quarter. But it doesn't look good that digital ads also suffered—down 4 percent.
What happened? The company blames "ongoing secular trends and an increasingly complex and fragmented digital advertising marketplace."
So the company is focusing its new strategy on its bright spot—the 45 percent growth it saw in digital subscriptions in the quarter, driving circulation revenue up 6.5 percent. Thompson announced broader subscription options. The company didn't give details about what kind of access it would offer or what price points it would charge, just saying that there will be a lower priced option as well as a higher-priced premium, all-inclusive subscription.
(Read More: New York Times Co. Looks to Sell Boston Globe)
On the earnings call the company stressed that this move isn't about bringing down prices—it's about finding new products that would lure in new subscribers.
The strategy also includes producing more video content and extensions into retail—selling related gales and products. On the earnings call there was talk about the success of the Times' crosswords franchise, and the opportunities in related "intelligent games." The company is also pushing to expand internationally under the unified Times brand, and is expanding its conference business.
Thompson said his plan is to leverage "brand strength" to generate incremental revenues. But he acknowledged that the company expects "operating profit will be impacted" as the company invests to build out and ramp up its new businesses. And while he expects growth initiatives to be based on organic investments, he doesn't rule out tuck-in acquisitions.
The company says it will not re-initiate a dividend, because it wants to maintain a conservative balance sheet, considering the challenges to the ad market. As for a question about whether the company will consider taking the company private, Thompson said "No."
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin