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Earnings: NYTCo Q1 Revs Slide 4.9 Percent; Earnings Drop; Online Up 11.6 Percent

A difficult quarter from NYTCo.. the newspaper publisher has announced Q1 revenue of $747.9, down 4.9 percent from $786.0 million in the year-ago period, and below the $752 million that analysts had been expecting. On a comparable basis, excluding various charges, the company earned $.04 per share, down significantly from $.17 per share in the year-ago period. The quarterly number includes an $.07 per share ($10.4 million after tax) write-down after the company reduce the scope of a major advertising and circulation project. The line from CEO Janet Robinson could describe any newspaper company right now: “Advertising revenues decreased in the quarter as weaker economic conditions compounded the effects of secular change in our business.” Some highlights:

— Revenue at the core news media business slipped 5.7 percent to $719.7 million, as advertising fell 10.6 percent. This was partly offset by revenue gains from leasing out five floors at the company’s new headquarters, but negatively affected by the loss of TimesSelect revenue.

— About Group revenue increased 25 percent to $28.2 million from $22.5 million, attributed to higher CPC advertising, as well as certain acquisitions.

— Total internet revenue, which includes, as well as the internet revenue at the core business, total $82.9 million, for an increase of 11.6 percent year-over year. Digital now accounts for 11 percent of revenue.

— Buyout costs totaled $11.2 million in the first quarter of 2008 compared with $7.8 million the previous year; flagship NYT is in the midst of a major buyout offer so that amount is likely to grow.

— The company continues to emphasize its cost-cutting efforts, note a decline in operating costs for the fifth consecutive quarter. Robinson said they’re still on track for 2008 savings of approximately $130 million.

— For the coming month, the company says it will see a slowdown in the rate of ad sales decline back to single digits, but this is mainly due to calendar issues and the production of an issue of KEY Magazine.

— Separately, the company announced its March numbers: Total revenue was down 6.4 percent to $235.3 million. on an 11.1 percent dip in ad revenue. About revenues were up 22 percent to $8.2 million, while internet ad revenue was up 14.8 percent. Release.

Statement | Webcast (11:00 AM ET)

Conference call: With business conditions weakening, there was a lot of interest on the call about the company’s cost-reduction initiatives, particularly the cost of its buyouts and possible layoffs. Altogether for the year, the company is anticipating a range of $30-$35 million. During the introductory remarks from CEO Janet Robinson, there was no talk of the company’s agreement with Harbinger, to bring on two of its board members, but when responding to a question during the Q&A, you might wonder where the two sides ever disagreed: “It is clear that we agree with them about accelerating our focus on the digital world… rebalancing our portfolio is an important part of how we are thinking about our company going forward.” That being said, since the new nominees aren’t on the board just yet, there’s nothing substantive they can point to.

Competition with WSJ: Robinson was asked whether the company felt any more heat from WSJ, as a competitor, since News Corp. took over its parent company, Dow Jones: “It’s clear that the WSJ is positioning itself quite differently, broadening into the international and political arena.” She added that the NYT has a headstare: “(We have) had broad coverage for 156 years.”