Times C.E.O. Mark Thompson stays the course in second-quarter earnings call

The New York Times building. (wallyg via flickr)
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The New York Times will be rolling out new paid-product offerings and digital initiatives in the coming months, company executives said on a conference call with Wall Street analysts today.

But that's pretty much as specific as they got about some of these new "flavors" of the Times brand, as chief executive Mark Thompson called them.

"We're making good progress and are on track with the strategic growth initiatives," said Thompson during his prepared remarks at the beginning of the call, which followed the Times Company's second-quarter earnings results, released this morning.

Following a period of slimming down and selling off non-essential assets, the Times Company, dogged by industry-wide print and digital advertising declines, is now focused on scaling its business through digital innovation and global expansion. 

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On the digital front, the Times Company has been developing new pricing plans and subscription-based products to bolster its paid digital model, the total subscriber base of which grew to roughly 738,000 at the end of the second quarter, a 40 percent increase from the same three-month period in 2012. That includes 699,000 combined digital subscribers to the Times and its sister brand, The International Herald Tribune, and 39,000 to The Boston Globe, which the company expects to sell during the third quarter of this year. The Tribune, meanwhile, will rebrand as The International New York Times on Oct. 15.

The paid model has been a boon to circulation revenues, with digital subscriptions up 44.1 percent to $38.3 million during the second quarter, helping to offset print and digital advertising revenue declines of 6.8 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.

The expanded subscription offerings make sense for the Times as the number of new sign-ups for its existing products diminishes quarter by quarter; finding new price-points and new markets (in other countries, and for other digital products) is part of the effort to broaden the market.

But Thompson emphasized that digital subscription revenue can't be seen as a replacement for digital advertising revenue.

"I absolutely do not think we should be satisfied with a continued contraction in digital advertising revenue," he said. "We are looking for solutions."

Enhanced video offerings are also becoming more important, and Thompson said there are "a number of new ones we'll be sharing with users over the next couple of months." While advertising rates for video are expected to come down over time, "the appetites of advertisers to do video are so great we think our chance to grow our share of the video market is great indeed," he said.

As is often the case with these calls, the Times' glossy style supplement, T Magazine, got a special plug, reinforcing its value as a driver of luxury ad dollars. Thompson praised the magazine's "brilliant" editor, Deborah Needleman, for "reshaping" the magazine and making it more attractive to readers and advertisers, he said.

Overall, Times Company revenues slipped 0.9 percent year-over-year to $485.4 million from $489.8 million during the second quarter. But its profits rose to $20.1 million from a loss of $87.6 million a year earlier.