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The New York Times saw itself slip into the No. 2 slot behind the U.K.’s Daily Mail last week for the first time. (Mark Lennihan/AP/Mark Lennihan/AP)
The New York Times saw itself slip into the No. 2 slot behind the U.K.’s Daily Mail last week for the first time. (Mark Lennihan/AP/Mark Lennihan/AP)

The Times opens its books on a bumpy quarter Add to ...

When The New York Times Co. reports its earnings Thursday, it will be doing it as the second-largest online news property in the world.

That’s right, second. The venerable Times saw itself slip into the No. 2 slot behind the U.K.’s Daily Mail last week for the first time.

ComScore data showed last week that the Daily Mail had 45.35-million unique visitors in December, compared to the Times at 44.8-million.

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USA Today, Tribune newspapers and the Guardian rounded out the top five spots.

There are arguments to be made about who should be counted and whether sister sites should be included, but the more interesting point is that the Times is settling into its post-paywall life and hasn’t seen a massive slip in traffic as a result.

And so it is that analysts and investors alike will be poring through the company’s fourth-quarter earnings (and full-year results) to see just what kind of an effect the paywall is having on readership.

The news company has provided a steady stream of its own noteworthy events in the past several months, all of which will feature in the earnings report. Chief executive officer Janet Robinson was pushed out and handed a lucrative retirement package reportedly worth as much as $21-million (U.S.) – at a time when revenue appears to be on track to decline for the sixth year in a row.

It also sold 16 regional newspapers to Halifax Media Holdings for $143-million.

The analysts who cover the company expect the company to report a quarterly profit of 41¢ a share for the quarter and 70¢ for the year, according to Capital IQ.

“We believe ad trends in Q4 improved at NYT, but the bigger issues in 2012 are the pay wall progress and the CEO succession,” said Douglas Arthur, an analyst at New York-based Evercore Partners.

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