NY Times Expenses to Rise, Pay Wall Nearly Ready

The New York Times Co forecast higher first-quarter expenses and said February print advertising revenue fell, though print ad trends are improving.

It also said that its "pay wall" for the nytimes.com Web site is in its final testing phase and that it would launch shortly.

The Times said that first-quarter operating expenses would rise 1 to 2%, mainly because of higher newsprint prices, pension expenses and promotion costs.

The company made the announcement on Wednesday ahead of a Morgan Stanley technology and media conference.

"The improvement in print advertising trends that we began to see in late January continued into February, and we finished the month with print advertising revenues down in the low single digits," Chief Executive Janet Robinson said in a statement.

Digital advertising revenue rose in the mid-single digits in February, though revenue at the About Group, which includes its About.com online reference service, was soft, the company said. It did not provide details.

The Times has been trying to develop a system to charge for some of the news and other information on its website. It scrapped a previous attempt.

Many U.S. newspapers are trying to find ways to make more money from their Web operations, including charging readers for historically free news, as print ad and subscription revenue dry up. Finding a way to make money online is critical to the newspaper companies' survival, many experts and newspaper executives say.

The Times also expects first-quarter circulation revenue to decrease along the same lines as it did in the second half of 2010.

The company's shares were nearly flat at $10.13 in early trade. They fell 2.6% in pre-market trading.