Digital Revenues Fall at New York Times Co.

Digital ads just won’t suffice to save the struggling newspaper business. That’s been clear since early this fall, when the Newspaper Association of America reported its members’ second quarter revenues shrank for the first time in Q2, following weak Q1 growth. Those revenues declined again in Q3, shattering the pipe dream that rapid Web growth would support the publishers’ huge cost structures.

So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock that The New York Times — itself an NAA member — is also feeling a digital ad pinch. Long known for its culture of innovation, particularly at NYTimes.com, the company last week reported results for November, and were they ever bad. The dismal report includes a 21.8 percent overall revenue drop, led by spending declines in a bunch of major sectors and in all its divisions.

While grim, that big picture pain is less disheartening than this tidbit: Online ad revenues for the month contracted 4 percent compared with November 2007, owing to the continued flight of real estate and job classifieds advertising. The collapse of those two bedrocks of its ad model appear to have trumped all the company’s smart synchronized banners, its surround sessions and its 10th place ranking among the largest Web players (Nielsen Online). Even for the Grey Lady, it would appear based on these numbers that rapid adoption and innovation in new channels just aren’t enough to sustain a business mired in old ones.

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