The Painful Stagnation Of TimesSelect And Other Bad News

Last week, Keith Kelly claimed that the New York Times will finally end the long national joke that is TimesSelect—you just know Maureen Dowd is cursing those Freakonomics guys right now for being able to refuse to have their blog behind the TimesSelect pay wall!—and a quick look at the just-out July numbers confirms that the core group of 225,000 or so people who signed up to pay for the service in the first place are pretty much the same people who still subscribe. (Everyone else either gets it free as part of their home delivery service, or as part of a college/university deal.) Whenever it does get shut down, it'll be a speck of egg on the faces of Times CEO Janet Robinson and Publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. But the failure of TimesSelect is probably the least of their worries right now: Their ad revenue, especially in the Regional Media Group (all those little papers they own in places like Lakeland, Florida) and classifieds across the board, is having a bit of a summer slump.

Ad revenue for the New York Times Media Group decreased 2.9 percent from July 2006—which is actually not bad. Take the New England Media Group, where apparently the Nordstrom and Neiman-Marcus in the Natick Mall have yet to open and save the world: Ad revenues are down 4.9 percent compared to last July. The bad news came from the Regional Media Group, whose ad revenues are down a cringe-worthy 10.9 percent, "mainly because of softness in home furnishing, home improvement and department store advertising. Classified advertising revenues decreased due to weakness in real estate, help-wanted and automotive advertising." Hi, Craigslist!

All of those numbers are marginally better than the June results, when the Times was down 3 percent, the New England Media Group was down 11.8 percent, and the Regional Media Group was down 12.2 percent.

The bright spot, as always, is Internet revenue, which grew 19.3 percent over last July. But while impressive, the rate of Internet growth is also slowing. In the second quarter, Internet revenue grew 23.4 percent; in June, Internet revenues were up 22 percent over last year.

We assume that a lot of that growth came from the About Group, whose ad revenues rose 34.7 percent in July (About's ad revenues are bundled into the calculations for the Internet group, but also broken out separately, presumably because they're a spot of good news). It seems that as the months go by, the company is looking for other, mostly online-based, ways to make money to support its sinking newspaper business. Bill Keller doesn't work for free, ya know! But now his salary is being paid by stuff like "What Not to Play At Your Wedding."

New York Times Company: Press Releases [NYT Co.]