Digital subscriber growth helped lift the New York Times Company during its most recent fiscal quarter even as the newspaper giant continued to see advertising revenue soften.
Revenue for the three-month period ending in December rose 5.2 percent to $575.8 million, besting Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were projecting the company would report $570.42 million in revenue for the period.
Earnings also rose at the company to 76 cents, up from 34 cents a year ago, and operating profit shrank from $90.8 million a year ago to $44 million.
A rise in the papers' digital subscriptions goosed circulation revenue by 16.1 percent, which is a shot in the arm to a company that has invested heavily in an elaborate paywall designed to make readers pay for Internet access to the news.
The Times said it now boasts 668,000 paid digital subscriptions across its papers, which include the Boston Globe. That was a 13 percent increase from where its subscriber numbers stood at the close of the previous quarter.
"The demonstrated willingness of users here and around the world to pay for the high quality journalism for which The New York Times and the company's other titles are renowned will be a key building block in the strategy for growth, which we are currently developing and which I will have much more to say about later in the year," Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times Company, said in a statement.
Thompson acknowledged, however, that the picture was darker on the advertising front. Advertising revenue dipped 3.1 percent to $279.9 million for the quarter. Digital advertising continued to grow, increasing 5.1 percent, but not enough to offset a 5.6 percent dip in print advertising.
Overall, web advertising now comprises 24.7 percent of overall ad sales compared with 22.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
As of 10 a.m. ET Thursday, shares of the New York Times Company were trading at $8.99, up 9.1 percent.