New York: The New York Times Co. said on Wednesday that its advertising revenue dropped 20.9% in November from a year ago, as the financial crisis prompted steep declines in classified and national ad spending.
The sharp economic deterioration, which followed the turmoil in the financial markets this September, has exacerbated an already-weak advertising market for newspapers as readers and advertisers have migrated to the Internet.
As part of its efforts to shore up its core newspaper assets amid the slump, the Times Co. is actively seeking buyers for its 17.5% stake in the holding company of the Boston Red Sox, according to reports on Wednesday. The holding company, New England Sports Ventures, owns the baseball club, Fenway Park and a majority interest in the New England Sports Network.
The Wall Street Journal cited an estimate by Barclays Capital that the Times Co. stake in the holding company could be worth about US $166 million.
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino declined to comment late on Wednesday.
Spokesmen for the Times Co. were not immediately available but the company’s flagship paper reported the effort to sell the Red Sox stake, citing a person briefed on the plans. The New York Times said the company is “seeking to raise cash and shield its newspaper franchise from rapidly falling revenue.” It said the Times Co. paid $75 million for the stake in 2002.
The Times Co.’s ad revenue, which makes up nearly two-thirds of total revenue, had booked declines of 16.2% in October and 14.1% in September.
Total revenue from continuing operations fell 13.9% in November.
For The New York Times’ news media segment, advertising revenue dropped 21.8%, while circulation revenue grew 4.2%. At its flagship newspaper, the New York-based company said weakness in the studio entertainment, national automotive, book and financial-services categories drove declines in national ad spending. Classified ad revenue in the segment also plunged 33.3%.
Total internet, revenue which also includes NYTimes.com, About.com and other company-owned web sites, dipped 2.6% in November. In total, Internet businesses accounted for 12.1% of total revenue in November, up from 10.7% in November 2007.
The company noted that internet revenue gained 8.3% over the year-to-date period.
The New York Times said unique visitors in the US rose 11% to 55 million from 49.6 million unique visitors in November 2007, according to Nielsen Online. The company had the 10th largest presence on the web and NYTimes.com maintained its position as the top newspaper Web site in the US.