- Church must help the poorest, not dissect theology, pope says
- Cameron 'losing control' as rift with party core widens
- British man in France admits slitting his two children's throats
- Beckham tears and Ibrahimovic joy as PSG triumph
- Afghanistan's Karzai seeks Indian military aid amid tensions with Pakistan
New York Times's About.com chief to leave
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The chief executive of About.com, an online division of The New York Times Co, will leave the company next week amid a campaign by activist shareholders to accelerate the publisher's digital transition.
Scott Meyer, a Times employee for eight years, became CEO of the network of information sites three years ago. The Times said the About.com business has nearly tripled from $34 million (17 million pounds) in annual revenue to $102 million in 2007 under his watch.
A source familiar with the matter said About.com is not for sale.
"After discussions with Martin, we've agreed that I'll be stepping down from my position as President & CEO of the About Group and leaving the Times Company," Meyer said in a note to staff, referring to Times senior vice president of digital operations Martin Nisenholtz.
The company said it will conduct a search for a replacement internally and externally. News of Meyer's departure was first reported by digital media blog paidContent.
It comes as the Times board is set to meet as early as next week with four board nominees from a dissident group in a proxy battle waged by its largest shareholders, hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners and investment firm Firebrand Partners.
The shareholders group has urged the Times to shed non-core assets and invest more heavily in digital properties.
The publisher, which also owns the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune, has seen stronger growth from the About Group than from its digital businesses overall.
Its total digital revenue rose 20 percent in 2007, lagging the U.S. online advertising industry, which grew 25 percent last year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
In the fourth quarter, that gap widened to 12 percent growth for the Times compared with 24 percent for the broader Internet advertising industry. The About Group posted a revenue increase of nearly 27 percent in that period.
"It has been a star performer. Terrific growth, improving margins. It's been a success story," Benchmark Co analyst Ed Atorino said.
FROM SKEPTICISM TO ACTIVISM
Although digital growth has been a relative bright spot for publishers amid an acute fall-off in print circulation and advertising revenue, income from those operations are not offsetting losses in their traditional businesses fast enough.
To that point, the Firebrand-Harbinger group has advocated that the Times aim to reap most of its revenue from digital operations within five years. The Internet accounted for just over 10 percent of annual revenue for the Times in 2007.
But its biggest Web foray to date was initially met with scepticism by investors.
The Times purchased About.com in 2005 for about $410 million, one of a string of industry deals that also included the purchase of financial news site MarketWatch Inc by Dow Jones & Co Inc, now a division of News Corp.
At the time, Wall Street criticized the Times for overpaying for About.com, which it unloaded from Primedia Inc, at an estimated 30-times About.com's 2004 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.
Times officials said the deal price multiple fell to 23 based on 2005 projected earnings.
About.com has also taken the buttoned-down approach of the Times, known for its prize-winning journalism and cultural commentary, into new directions.
This week the site's home page takes a reader interested in healthy family meal planning to a page sponsored by McDonald's, offering a kid-pleasing recipe for "Hot Dog Soup."
"I'm sure if you're on NYT.com and you're looking to find Lindsay Lohan's BFF (best friend forever), you can find it on About.com (instead)," Atorino said.
New York Times shares fell 46 cents, or 2.4 percent, to close at $18.69 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Braden Reddall)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this