Unexpectedly Intriguing!
March 9, 2010

According to documents filed with the SEC in February 2010, 2009 marked another grim milestone in the accelerating decline of the New York Times. Having already seen its weekday circulation drop below one million for the first time in decades earlier in the year, we can now confirm that the New York Times has now lost more than half its Sunday circulation in its home 31-county market in New York since its circulation levels last peaked in 1993.

New York Times Sunday Circulation, 1993-2009

The table below, taken from the New York Times' SEC filings for its annual reports from 1993 through 2009 for its Sunday circulation data provides the hard data presented visually in the chart above.

New York Times Average Sunday Circulation, 1993 through 2009
Year Sunday Circulation Sunday Percentage of Total Circulation in NYC Sunday Circulation Within NYC Market Sunday Circulation Outside NYC Market Percentage Decline of Total Sunday Circulation
1993 1,783,900 63 1,123,857 660,043 0.0
1994 1,742,200 63 1,097,586 644,614 -2.3
1995 1,720,300 60 1,032,180 688,120 -3.6
1996 1,701,800 60 1,021,080 680,720 -4.6
1997 1,651,400 59 974,326 677,074 -7.4
1998 1,638,900 58 950,562 688,338 -8.1
1999 1,671,200 56 935,872 735,328 -6.3
2000 1,686,700 55 927,685 759,015 -5.4
2001 1,659,900 53 879,747 780,153 -7.0
2002 1,682,100 51 857,871 824,229 -5.7
2003 1,682,100 49 824,229 857,871 -5.7
2004 1,669,700 47 784,759 884,941 -6.4
2005 1,684,700 44 741,268 943,432 -5.6
2006 1,637,700 44 720,588 917,112 -8.2
2007 1,529,700 42 642,474 887,226 -14.2
2008 1,451,300 41 595,033 856,267 -18.6
2009 1,405,200 40 562,080 843,120 -21.2

Looking at the New York Times' total weekday circulation, we confirm a sharp decline has taken place in 2009, with the newspaper's total circulation now 18.9% below its 1993 peak value. In 2008, that percentage loss of peak circulation stood at just 12.6%, which makes 2009 the single worst year for the weekday newspaper's fortunes on record. In historical terms, the New York Times' 31-county home market circulation of 422,048 in 2009 has dropped below the daily circulation figure of 450,000, which marked the low end of the range the newspaper successfully maintained during the years of the Great Depression.

New York Times Weekday Circulation, 1993-2009

We've summarized all the annual data for the New York Times' Sunday edition circulation that was presented in the chart above in the table below. Clicking the "Year" links provides the relevant NYT's SEC filing for the indicated year, from which we obtained the newspaper's circulation data, which is reported in the section of the annual report in which the company's management discusses its business:

New York Times Average Weekday Circulation, 1993 through 2009
Year Weekday Circulation (Mon-Fri) Weekday Percentage of Total Circulation in NYC Weekday Circulation Within NYC Market Weekday Circulation Outside NYC Market Percentage Decline of Total Weekday Circulation
1993 1,183,100 64 757,184 425,916 0.0
1994 1,148,800 64 735,232 413,568 -2.9
1995 1,124,300 62 697,066 427,234 -5.0
1996 1,111,800 62 689,316 422,484 -6.0
1997 1,090,900 62 676,358 414,542 -7.8
1998 1,088,100 61 663,741 424,359 -8.0
1999 1,109,700 60 665,820 443,880 -6.2
2000 1,122,400 59 662,216 460,184 -5.1
2001 1,143,700 58 663,346 480,354 -3.3
2002 1,131,400 55 622,270 509,130 -4.4
2003 1,132,000 53 599,960 532,040 -4.3
2004 1,124,700 50 562,350 562,350 -4.9
2005 1,135,800 49 556,542 579,258 -4.0
2006 1,103,600 48 529,728 573,872 -6.7
2007 1,066,600 47 501,302 565,298 -9.8
2008 1,033,800 46 475,548 558,252 -12.6
2009 959,200 44 422,048 537,152 -18.9

Given these dramatic declines and the indications provided by the company's senior leadership, we would predict that even more layoffs of newspaper staff will be seen in 2010, despite what the newspaper's own senior management indicated just three months ago and its reported profit in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Disclosure: Ironman does not hold any positions in the New York Times (NYSE: NYT).

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