The New York Times' CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

The New York Times (NYT)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 02, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Paula Schwartz - Assistant Director of Investor Relations & Online Communications

Arthur O. Sulzberger - Chairman, Interim Chief Executive Officer and Publisher of The Times

James M. Follo - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Michael Golden - Vice Chairman, President of Regional Media Group and Chief Operating Officer of Regional Media Group

Analysts

John Janedis - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Douglas M. Arthur - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

Craig Huber

William G. Bird - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Alexia S. Quadrani - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Leo Kulp - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Edward J. Atorino - The Benchmark Company, LLC, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good day, and welcome to The New York Times Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. As a reminder, today's conference is being recorded. At this time, I'd like to turn the conference over to your host, Ms. Paula Schwartz. You may begin.

Paula Schwartz

Thank you, Tricia, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to our fourth quarter 2011 earnings conference call. We have several members of our senior management team here today to discuss our results with you including: Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Michael Golden, Vice Chairman; Jim Follo, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Scott Heekin-Canedy, President and General Manager of The Times.

All of the comparisons on this conference call will be for the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2010, unless otherwise stated. Our discussion will include forward-looking statements, and our actual results may differ from those predicted. Some of the factors that may cause them to differ are included in our 2010 10-K.

Our presentation will also include non-GAAP financial measures, and we have provided reconciliations to our most comparable GAAP measures in our earnings press release, which is available on our corporate website at www.nytco.com.

Now I will turn the call over to Arthur.

Arthur O. Sulzberger

Thank you, Paula, and good morning, everyone. Looking back at 2011, I could use a number of adjectives to describe the year: challenging, fascinating and, to a great extent, transformative. Both in terms of our past, but more importantly, in terms of where we are heading, 2011 will be remembered as the year in which we made unprecedented strides in our strategic evolution to a multi-platform organization.

The launch of digital subscription models, both at The New York Times and The Boston Globe, created a robust new revenue stream that contributed to the company's circulation revenue growth. The positive consumer response to our digital subscription packages is a strong indication of the value users place on our brands, especially our high-quality journalism, and their willingness to pay for our content and convenient access across multiple platforms.

2011 was also a year in which we continued to realign our operations in the face of ongoing economic and secular challenges and strengthened our balance sheet, while demonstrating at every turn our commitment to that special brand of journalism and high-quality information that defines The Times Company.

Let me review some of those highlights.

After extensive study, research and development, we launched paid digital subscriptions at our 2 largest news properties, starting with The New York Times in March followed by The Boston Globe with BostonGlobe.com in October. The International Herald Tribune also launched digital subscription packages in October.

In terms of business operations, we have remained very diligent and disciplined in managing expenses while, at the same time, continuing to invest in digital initiatives across the company and providing the resources needed to produce the high-quality journalism across a growing array of devices.

We further strengthened our balance sheet and liquidity position with the early repayment of our highest interest debt in August. Eliminating this debt from our balance sheet more than 3 years ahead of maturity provides us with increased financial flexibility. In addition, we continued to address our pension obligations and made sizable discretionary contributions.

Last month, we sold our Regional Media Group for $143 million, subject to certain adjustments, further building our strong cash position. This sale will enable the company to continue our transformation to a multi-platform media company and our pursuit of a strategy that focuses on development and diversification of our brand on a global scale.

Something I do want to address is a key investment area for us, our continuing focus on maintaining what I believe to be the very best journalistic organization in the nation and, perhaps, internationally. 2011 was a year of dramatic news events, particularly on the international scene. And I'm proud to say that faithful to our tradition, The Times Company's publications have provided some of the best and most in-depth coverage and analysis of this period.

In the face of ongoing change in our industry, The New York Times Company continues to maintain a large and robust news organization, one without parallel in the field. We do it for a simple business reason: quality journalism and content are the core of our brand and our strategy.

As we approach the anniversary of the launch of The New York Times digital subscriptions, which totaled 390,000 at the end of the fourth quarter, we are excited and optimistic about our digital strategy. NYTimes.com has maintained its strong reach with 33 million average monthly unique users in the U.S. and 48 million globally in 2011. Looking ahead, we will continue to enhance our content, our tools and our apps to increase the engagement of our users. This also includes actively leveraging social media networks to encourage conversations and debates while engaging with our journalists. The New York Times' main Facebook page now has nearly 2 million fans, and our Twitter page has more than 4 million followers.

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