Large holder dumps some New York Times shares

Call it irony. On September 21, The New York Timesran a long piece about the difficulties that newspapers are still having with their extraordinary loss of advertising. As it turns out, one of The New York Times Company's (NYT) largest shareholders was dumping shares.

According to an examination of SEC filings, The Wall Street Journal discovered that "Harbinger Capital Partners has sold five million shares of New York Times Co., unloading a chunk of its 20 percent stake in the publisher at a significant loss."

Harbinger may be taking advantage of a rally in newspaper stocks to get out while the getting is good. Shares in the New York Times have gone from a 52-week low of $3.44 to over $8. Analysts who follow the industry expect the third and perhaps the fourth quarters to show that newspaper advertising is still dropping at double-digit rates.

Ultimately, what has made newspaper stocks less and less attractive is that their websites have not done well enough financially to offset drops in revenue and profits from their print products. The internet was supposed to be the salvation of the industry. In fact, display advertising sales have dropped across the entire web, which means that the newspaper business is almost out of options for a turnaround.

The Times might be writing its own obituary as it covers the continuing failure of the industry to find a reasonable model to keep itself viable.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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