The New York Times Co. on Thursday announced a third-quarter profit of $15.7 milllion, buoyed by 324,000 paid subscriptions to its Web site.
The gains translated to 10 cents per share, up from a loss of 3 cents a share and loss of $4.3 million during the third quarter of 2010. Operating costs decreased 3.6 percent to $504.1 million, while circulation revenue rose 3.4 percent to $237 million.
An 8.8 percent drop in advertising revenue, down to $262 million, was offset by paid subscribers to nytimes.com who typically pay monthly fees of $15 to $35.
An additional 800,000 print subscribers have registered for free access. The Boston Globe's Web site, boston.com, also has begun charging through a paywall, but subscription figures weren't available.
Digital advertising for news increased 6.2 percent to $50.3 million, but losses at About.com meant overall digital advertising revenue was down 4.5 percent to $74.8 million. About's revenue fell 20.8 percent to $25.7 million, due to falling advertising and Google traffic changes. For advertising, 28.6 percent came from digital.
The Times also sold part of its stake in Fenway Sports Group, owner of the Boston Red Sox, for $65.3 million. Earlier this year, it repaid a $250 million loan to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu earlier than expected, avoiding a 14 percent interest rate.
Our digital subscription initiatives remained our top focus in the third quarter, Janet Robinson, president and CEO of The New York Times Co., said in a statement.
We made significant progress in developing a robust digital subscription revenue stream, reduced our operating costs, meaningfully improved our liquidity through the early repayment of high-interest debt and tripled our initial investment on the sale of a portion of our stake in Fenway Sports Group. And despite a challenging advertising environment, our operating profit grew reflecting our strong cost performance and growth in circulation revenues, which rose 3 percent, Robinson added.
Earlier this month, Jill Abramson assumed the position of executive editor of The New York Times, becoming the first woman to head the paper's news section. Abramson, the former co-managing editor, spent part of last spring working with the digital section to intergrate the Web site with the print desks. She has pushed the editors of the Times to become more involved in the management of the paper's Web site, particularly its front page.
Shares of The New York Times Co. rose 28 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $6.79 Thursday morning.