NY Times Conf. Call: Don't Mind Elephant in Room

The New York Times’ quarterly conference call focused on: 1) the company’s successful cost cutting (revenue fell 4% but operating income only 3%), and 2) the robust growth of the online business (revenue up 23%).  Unfortunately, no matter how much cost the New York Times cuts, it won’t be able to save its way to prosperity, and the digital business that consumed 1/3rd of the conference call amounts to only 1/10th of the company.  (Please see Improving Online Business Won’t Save Sinking Ship).

Nevertheless, we’re big fans of the New York Times online, and About.com is doing just fine.  So here are some New York Times Digital details, courtesy of New York-based financial site seekingalpha:

Our About group [which represents about a third of the digital business]…had another strong quarter. Total revenues grew 27% to $24.7 million and operating profit before depreciation and amortization rose 16% to $11.9 million. The About group’s growth is attributable to higher advertising rates and increased volume in both display and cost per click advertising, and the acquisition of ConsumerSearch.com. Part of this growth was an increase in the number of guides providing content on a greater number of sites under the About.com’s umbrella.

At the beginning of January, we had 587 guides. Today we have 633 and by year end, we expect the number to be close to 700. Like other Internet properties, About.com continues to develop its key verticals. A good example is what it has done in health where it has become a major player. In June, About’s health channel, which is the number 2 commercial health site behind WebMD saw traffic grow 60% and page views climbed 144%.

The acquisitions of CalorieCount.com and YouCompareHealth.com which allows users to compare doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, have improved the user experience, driven traffic and added to revenues.

The development of content verticals such as health across all of our web sites has helped the Times Company become the 11th most visited parent company on the web in the United States with 42.9 million unique visitors in June, up 14% from June of 2006. This reach represents nearly 27% of the online audience in the United States.

No word yet about whether the Times will kill TimesSelect, which we think it should.

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