For the first quarter of the year, The New York Times Co. on Thursday reported a 6.1% increase in total digital revenues -- from $90.4 million to $95.9 million -- along with a 4.5% increase in digital ad revenues from $80.0 million to $83.6 million.
Digital advertising revenues at the News Media Group increased 14.9% to $53.9 million from $46.9 million, which NYTCO attributed mainly to strong growth in national display advertising. In total, digital businesses accounted for 16.9% of the Times's total revenues for the first quarter of 2011 versus 15.4% for the first quarter of 2010.
As a percentage of all ad revenues at the company, digital ad revenues were 28% for the first quarter of 2011, compared with 25.6% in the first quarter of 2010.
"Our digital initiatives have increasingly contributed to our revenue mix, providing meaningful diversification of our businesses across proliferating platforms," Janet Robinson, president and CEO of NYTCO, said Thursday.
"The advertising marketplace faced increased pressure in the first quarter, reflecting the uneven economic environment, recent global events and secular forces," according to Robinson. She noted that "although digital advertising grew 4.5%, it could not fully offset the 7.5% decline in print advertising revenues in the quarter."
Thursday's earnings report follows NYTCO's introduction of its latest subscription initiative. "We are pleased with the number of subscribers we have acquired to date," she added, "as initial volume has meaningfully exceeded our expectations."
About three weeks after the global launch of the new digital subscription packages on NYTimes.com, paid digital subscribers surpassed 100,000, according to the company. It's too soon to break out conversion and retention rates for these paying customers after the initial promotional period, although the company said that early indicators are encouraging.
Separately, for the first quarter, About Group revenues decreased 10.2% to $31.1 million from $34.7 million, which NYTCO blamed on lower click-through rates and softness in page views.
In particular, "design changes in cost-per-click advertisements served by Google had a negative effect on click-through rates in the quarter. The company expects that to be the case through the second quarter of 2011," stated its earnings report. "The About Group also experienced a moderately negative impact on page views from the algorithm changes Google implemented in the quarter."
Looking forward, in the first half of April, NYTCO saw total ad trends improve relative to those in March, with declines at approximately the same level as in the first quarter.