NY Times CEO sees improvement in ad economy

Things are still pretty tough for The New York Times Co. (NYT), but they're getting better. The publisher reported a $35.6 million loss in the third quarter of 2009, considerably better than analysts had expected. And, on an earnings call to discuss the results, Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson suggested that the outlook is finally improving.

"We have seen encouraging signs of improvement in the overall economy and in discussions with our advertisers," Robinson said. She even predicted a "modest return" of classified ad spending, whose drop-off is widely seen as more secular than cyclical, "when the economic winds blow more in everyone's favor."
Robinson touched only briefly on recent developments including the decision to abort a planned sale of The Boston Globe and this week's announcement that the Times will eliminate 100 more jobs in its newsroom. "This move was made with reluctance and only after ensuring we could manage the reduction without damaging the quality of our news report," she said.

One thing that didn't come up is the paper's deliberations over how best to get users of nytimes.com to pay for the privilege. In July, Robinson said the Times was choosing between a metered model and one based on membership to a premium club. Though a decision was promised in late summer or early fall, the company continues to kick the issue down the road. But one interesting development along those lines came out of the earnings announcement: As the Times's Richard Perez-Pena notes, this was the first quarter in which circulation revenues at the New York Times Media Group surpassed advertising revenues.
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