Times Company sees sale of ‘Boston Globe’ in second half of 2013

times-company-sees-sale-boston-globe-second-half-2013
The New York Times building. (wallyg via flickr)
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

The New York Times Co. expects to have a buyer for its New England Media Group, which includes The Boston Globe, sometime in the second half of the year, a company executive said on today's first-quarter earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

The Times Co. announced its plan to sell the New England Media Group in February, reflecting a broader strategy of paring down corporate assets and refocusing resources on core extensions of The New York Times

Over the past two years, the Times Company has unloaded ancillary operations like its regional newspapers and the website About.com, which had become a drag on its quarterly financial results.

Now the emphasis is on growing the Times brand digitally and globally.

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

Part of a new strategy announced this morning involves tweaking the Times' existing digital-subscription program, expanding it into both higher and lower price points.

At the low end the company will offer reduced digital subscriptions that will give price-sensitive consumers a way of accessing the Times journalism they're most interested in. 

On the call, Thompson declined to specify the price point but said the potential market for the lower-cost product was in the "hundreds of thousands" according to research conducted by the company. The lowest existing digital subscription plan costs $15 a month.

The company will also offer enhanced packages for its most devoted subscribers willing to pay more for upsells like preferred access to Times events and gift subscriptions.

Combined digital subscriptions to the Times and its sister title, The International Herald Tribune, grew to 676,000 at the end of the first quarter of 2013, up 45 percent from the same period a year earlier. At the same time, it was a rather modest increase from the previous quarter's total of 640,000, suggesting the metered pay model is perhaps beginning to hit a wall.

Executives attributed the slowdown to an earlier uptick in digital subscribers that resulted from last fall's heavier-than-usual news cycle. They expect to see global subscriber growth after the company rebrands its world edition to The International New York Times later this year.

The company is turning to such initiatives in the face of ongoing declines in print and digital ad revenues, which were down 13.3 percent and 4 percent in the first quarter. Net income was $3.1 million, down from $42.1 million in the first quarter of 2012, while total revenues declined 2 percent to $465.9 million.

The results came on the heels of a banner week for the Times' newsroom, which just earned four Pulitzers, more than any other news organization this year.

Thompson noted the Pulitzer victories while applauding the Times and The Globe's "brilliant coverage ... of the tragedy in Boston." He also described the Times as the "gold standard" of journalism.

"It's the rock upon which we plan to build a successful future for the company" he said.

Toward the end of the call, an analyst asked if there were any plans to take the Times Company private. Thompson said "we're not considering" such a move.