No wonder The New York Times is so anxious to start getting readers to open their wallets. In the fourth quarter of 2009, when other huge newspaper companies were experiencing a mild turnaround, The New York Times Co. (NYT) recorded a 14.7% drop in advertising revenue, according to its year-end earnings report.That actually represents a moderation in the rate of decline; for full-year 2009, the year-over-year drop-off was 24.5%. But, as Bloomberg notes, Gannett and McClatchy, two of the other leading newspaper chains, actually experienced modest ad-revenue improvement in the fourth quarter. Despite the ad revenue losses, the Times Co. managed to eke out a smallish profit of $19.9 million for the year thanks to aggressive cost-cutting measures, including a downsizing of the newsroom and pay cuts and furloughs for those who remained.

Boosting Revenue with a Metered Pay System

In a call with analysts, Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson said the planned introduction of a metered pay system for users of nytimes.com will help the site "develop an additional revenue stream while preserving its robust advertising business." She said the reason for the long delay in implementing the new pay system was the importance of getting it right the first time. "We recognize that our success will be judged by how well we execute this effort, and that is why we are waiting until 2011," she said. "We are determined to make subscribing as smooth and easy as possible."

Robinson also said that new editions of the Times in Chicago and San Francisco, containing pages of local content produced specially for those markets, have succeeded in attracting new print subscribers, encouraging the paper with plans to move ahead with the strategy: "Our intent is to roll our expanded reports in several other key markets across the country, working with local journalists and other news organizations." Robinson did not indicate, however, which cities will be the next to get their own Times editions.

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