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Tough Times For The Times

Wednesday, 28 Jan 2009 | 3:41 PM ET

The New York Times Co.'s net income fell 48 percent to $27.6 million in the fourth quarter, suffering from declining ad sales.

The company's ad revenue fell 18 percent, and this quarter it wasn't just print ads that suffered.

Digital ads, which have been considered a failsafe growth category, showed a 3.5 percent drop in revenue in the quarter, after growing almost 15 percent the first three quarters of the year. With advertisers pulling back industry-wide even traditionally strong holiday ad spending couldn't save online ads.

The decline in online ad sales isn't just bad for the New York Times, it bodes ill for other publishers trying to grow the revenue streams from their websites. And it wasn't just the newspaper's website-- the company's About Group, which includes About.com and some other websites, showed a 2.9 percent drop in revenue in the quarter.

Trying to readjust to these times, the Times Company cut operating costs by 8.5 percent in the quarter and 4.7 percent of the year. The company is still operating in positive territory on a cash basis. In May, one of two of its $400 million credit lines expires; the company reported that it had $380 million outstanding at year's end.

Goldman Sachs has been hired to help explore the sale of its 17.8 percent stake in New England Sports Ventures, which owns part of a cable sports network, as well as the Red Sox and part of Fenway Park. The Times is working to find solutions, but it's going to be rough until the ad market turns around.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.