(Recasts, adds conference call details, updates shares)
* Q4 paid digital subscribers rose 20 pct from Q3
* Digital advertising revenue fell 4.9 pct
* Advertising revenue fell 7 percent to $358.5 mln
* Q4 adj EPS $0.45 vs est $0.41
* Sees Q1 total ad revenue at Q4 levels
Feb 2 The New York Times Co, which is grappling with sinking advertising revenue and a recent change in the top management, said it continued to add subscribers for its digital products in the fourth quarter.
The company started 2012 without a CEO or a digital boss as long-term Chief Executive Janet Robinson stepped down last December, and longtime digital leader Martin Nisenholtz retired.
Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has taken up the top job in the interim as the company continues its search for a replacement for Robinson.
"As for the CEO search, it is in its early stages, as our board seeks to find the appropriate executive with digital and brand-building experience to help guide this company and its long-term growth strategy," Sulzberger said in a post-earnings analyst call.
The problems plaguing newspaper companies are well known. Readers have ditched print for digital, causing circulation and advertising revenue to plummet.
The company, which rolled out an online pay system last year for digital subscribers, said paid digital subscribers of The Times and the International Herald Tribune rose 20 percent from the third quarter to about 390,000.
The digital subscription strategy helped circulation revenue to grow 5 percent to $241.6 million in the fourth quarter.
"We are confident that our plan to sustain momentum through the rollout of a series of new features, functions and content will enable us to steadily build our digital progress to date," Chief Financial Officer James Follo said on the call.
The Boston Globe, another of the company's newspapers that rolled out online paid content offering last October, has 16,000 subscribers.
AD REVENUE FALLS
Digital advertising revenue fell 5 percent to $95.7 million as higher revenue at the News Media Group were more than offset by declines at the About Group.
About Group revenue fell more than a quarter to $26.1 million as both cost-per-click and display advertising declined.
CFO Follo is now overseeing About.com, which provides short articles, videos and other content that tend to appear high in search queries and sells advertising against those results.
The company expects total advertising revenue trends in the first quarter to be similar to the fourth-quarter levels, and total circulation revenue to increase in the high-single digits.
Total advertising revenue fell 7 percent to $358.5 million.
Fourth-quarter net income fell to $58.9 million, or 39 cents a share, from $67.1 million, or 44 cents a share, a year ago.
Excluding items, it earned 45 cents a share on a continuing basis.
Revenue fell 3 percent to $642.9 million.
Shares of the company, which have gained more than 30 percent in value in the last three months, were flat at $7.64 on Thursday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das, Unnikrishnan Nair)
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