We’re sorry about the stream of New York Times posts today, but the company keeps making news. At the UBS conference this afternoon, NYT Digital head Martin Nisenholtz said online display advertising on the company’s sites is plummeting.
Digital head Martin Nisenholtz said revenue at his unit had been ok until the last two months of the year, but that there had been “softness in November, accelerating into December… next year is going to be a different year, by a fairly profound margin.”
Bear in mind that the Times’ digital performance pre-November was grim to begin with — digital revenue grew just 4.3% in October — and it becomes possible to imagine that digital revenue will decrease for at least part of 2009.
Nisenholtz didn’t do anything rash like attach any numbers to his comments, but he did add a little bit of colour: His About.com unit, which is boosted by cost-per-click/search ads, is still doing okish. But the business of selling display ads to the Times’ Web sites is getting pummelled, and could be “under great stress” next year, he says.
Meanwhile, NYTCo CEO Janet Robinson didn’t answer two direct questions about whether she planned to sell About.com. (If she isn’t thinking about it, she should be.)
So if About.com is doing (comparatively) well, why not sell that asset to help the paper escape its cash crunch? I asked CEO Janet Robinson that question after the event. She did everything but insist that the paper would never part with About.com, and praised it up and down — “an extremely important part of our digital future”, etc.
But given a couple chances, she never explicitly ruled out a sale. Given the paper’s position, I don’t think she can.