On a conference call with analysts Tuesday morning, New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson stamped down speculation that the Grey Lady might go online-only sometime in the not-so-distant future.
“We will be printing newspapers for many years to come,” she said, echoing comments made by Times executive editor Bill Keller last month. (Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. had earlier conceded that “we will stop printing The New York Times” sometime in the future, date TBD.”)
It’s not surprising Robinson sought to emphasise the company’s commitment to the Times as a printed object. As the Times announced in its third quarter earnings release a few hours earlier, circulation revenues declined almost 5%, which means fewer people are buying the paper. Print ad revenues, meanwhile, fell almost 6%.
Or perhaps Robinson stressed the longevity of the print edition to offset the amount of time she spent talking about the Times’ digital initiatives, which she said “will get an even brighter spotlight” in the coming months. (Digital ad revenues rose 14.6% in the third quarter.)
“Many clients,” Robinson said, have signed on for Press Engine, the Times’ new app-building platform, for which some publishers are reportedly shelling out a licensing fee north of $50,000. Press Engine is expected to launch in the fourth quarter.
Robinson also cited the expansion of DealBook, the Times’ business news blog, which has been staffing up (“Advertisers to the section are already taking notice,” she said); the new full-version iPad app the Times debuted last week, which will become a subscription product in early 2011; and the Times’ recent acquisition of the popular statistics and polling website, FiveThirtyEight.
Robinson offered no new details, however, about the online metered pay model that NYTimes.com will switch over to in January.
“We plan to release details on price and gate placement closer to the launch,” she said. She reiterated that the paywall will ensure that readers referred from blogs and news aggregators can access content: “This first click free model will preserve nytimes.com’s significant reach and ad inventory.”
And how has this model been working out for the Times Co.’s central Massachusetts newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, whose website went behind a paywall over the summer?
Robinson declined to say how many people were now paying for telegram.com. But she noted that the amount of unique visitors to the site had increased.
“There’s lots of learning that we will share with our entire organisation,” she said, “but it’s a little early to give specifics.”
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