Earnings fell by half at the New York Times Co. ( NYT) in the third quarter, held back by surging paper prices and tepid ad growth.

The company turned a profit of $23.1 million, or 16 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $48.3 million, or 33 cents a share, a year ago. The latest period included a layoffs charge of 5 cents a share and options-expensing costs of 1 cent a share. Total revenue rose 2.2% to $791.1 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting precharge earnings of 17 cents a share on sales of $787.8 million.

The Times' top line benefited considerably from the addition of About.com, which saw ad sales rise 67% in the quarter. At the parent, third-quarter advertising revenue rose 4% year over year, but only 1.3% when About.com is excluded. Excluding About.com, the company's gain in overall revenue falls from 2.2% to 0.4%.

In its New England Media Group, which publishes the Boston Globe, among other things, advertising revenue fell 2.8% in the quarter. The company blamed "continuing softness in the Boston economy."

The company's newsprint expense rose 3% in the third quarter, reflecting a 5.4% jump in prices and a 2.4% decline in consumption. Total costs and expenses excluding staff reductions, About.com, stock-based compensation, raw materials and depreciation and amortization increased 5.2%.

New York Times left full-year guidance intact for various volume and ad metrics. It sees total company advertising revenue rising in the low-single digits, while its newsprint cost per ton will be up 9% to 11%.

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