When an online bellwether like New York Times Digital appears to be going strong, it must say something about the improving health of the entire industry. A rising tide lifts all ships, right?
The New York Times Co., NYTD's parent company, issued some stellar fourth quarter earnings today. Here are a few data points:
Revenues for NYTD rose 27.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2003 to $25 million from $19.7 million for the same period in 2002. Operating profit more than doubled to $7.2 million from $3.3 million, a lift attributed to higher ad revenues. Total revenue rose 23% year-over-year to $88 million from $71.8 million in 2002. The fourth quarter marks more than two years of profitability for NYTD for 10 consecutive quarters since the third quarter 2001. The NYTD said its half-page ad unit racked up $1.2 million in 2003; it was only introduced in April and drew brand such as Cadillac and Brooks Brothers. NYTD's much-vaunted Surround Sessions ad program raked in $1.7 million in 2003 luring power brands including Acura, Hilton Hotels, and Kraft Foods.
Yahoo! recently announced equally smashing earnings, and a number of other publishers seem to be humming. While a handful of online publishers continue to attract the biggest brand marketers, those brands are widening their field of vision to target niche audiences with specialized buys. Numbers like the ones reported by NYTD reveal a healthy landscape. They also point to the fact that the online world is beginning to attract its fair share of marketers' dollars. At least it's a beginning.