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New York Times 1st-quarter earnings drop 93 per cent, circulation rises, advertising slips

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - The New York Times Co. reported a sharp decline in its first-quarter earnings on Thursday mainly because businesses it sold last year were not included in the latest results.

The company earned $3.1 million, or 2 cents per share, in the January-March period. That's down 93 per cent from $42.1 million, or 28 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Excluding severance costs and the results of businesses the company has sold, earnings were 4 cents per share in the latest quarter, matching Wall Street's expectations but down from 5 cents per share in the first quarter of 2012.

Revenue fell 2 per cent to $465.9 million from $475.4 million.

Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of $469.1 million, according to a poll by FactSet.

Advertising revenue dropped 11 per cent to $191.1 million from $215.2 million.

Circulation revenue rose 7 per cent to $241.8 million from $227 million, as the company attracted more people who signed up for digital and print subscriptions. It ended the quarter with 708,000 digital-only subscription accounts, up 45 per cent from a year ago.

The Times Co.'s stock rose 21 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $9.21 in afternoon trading. The company's stock is up nearly 8 per cent in 2013.

The company announced new products aimed at growing revenue. Its plans include lower-priced subscriptions as well as premium subscriptions, e-commerce and enhanced video.

"We mean to grow our business by launching new products and services based on the unique strengths of Times journalism and by investing in the rapid expansion of existing operations — video and live events are examples — where we're already seeing strong growth," said Times Co. president and CEO Mark Thompson, in a statement.

Games are another area of interest for the Times Co. Last year, the company expanded its famous crossword franchise with increased marketing of its Web and mobile crossword products. As a result, it added "a sizable number" of subscribers to those products, said Thompson on a conference call with analysts.

"Based on this experience and market indicators —which point to healthy growth of casual gaming users, especially in mobile— we believe there is an opportunity to expand our footprint in this market," Thompson said.

The company said it expects circulation revenue to increase in the mid-single digits in the second quarter compared with a year ago. It anticipates advertising revenue trends will be "somewhat better" than they were in the first quarter.

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