Revenues at The Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester plummeted by more than 21 percent in the first three months of this year, driven largely by a 32 percent decline in ad sales.

Revenues at The Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester plummeted by more than 21 percent in the first three months of this year, driven largely by a nearly 32 percent decline in ad sales.


The steep revenue declines occurred as The New York Times Co. ramped up cost-cutting efforts at The Boston Globe. The Times Co. recently told union representatives that it could shut down the unprofitable paper if the unions don’t agree to $20 million in expense concessions.


Meanwhile, the Boston Newspaper Guild on Tuesday launched a petition on its Web site to save The Boston Globe. The petition urges the Times Co. and Globe management to make sacrifices with Globe union workers so the paper can continue to publish.


Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson told analysts on Tuesday that the success of the negotiations with the Guild and the paper’s other unions are critical to putting the Globe on solid footing. However, she declined to comment about the progress of those negotiations after analysts pressed her for details during a conference call.


The Times Co. has already taken several steps to shore up its financial position, such as putting its 17.75 percent stake in the company that owns the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park up for sale. Robinson said Times Co. executives are pleased with the response that they’ve received from prospective buyers of the stake in New England Sports Ventures.


The Times Co. blamed its latest losses – including a net loss of $74.5 million in the first quarter – partly on a shortfall at its New England group, which consists of the Globe, the T&G and their Web sites.


Total revenue for the two papers and their Web sites fell to $104.5 million for the quarter, a 20.6 percent drop from the same time a year ago. Ad sales fell 31.6 percent to $55.7 million for the quarter, while circulation revenue held relatively steady, at $38 million, largely due to price increases at the Globe.


Total revenues at the Times Co.’s continuing operations fell 18.6 percent from the same time a year ago, as the Times Co. saw big ad declines at its flagship paper and its other regional papers as well as the two Massachusetts papers.


The broad nature of the ad declines at the Times Co. is the latest sign that newspapers across the country are suffering because of the recession and a steady exodus of ads to the Internet. Many big newspaper companies, including the Times Co., are also struggling with large piles of debt that they accumulated during their boom times.


Jon Chesto may be reached at jchesto@ledger.com.