Updated: NYT’s Robinson: Progress on Metered Model (But No Details); Paid iPad App Coming

Waiting for details about the plan to take NYTimes.com metered in early 2011? Keep waiting. CEO Janet Robinson told analysts on the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) Q1 call that the company has made progress, including decisions on what content will be metered and how search queries will be handled, but didn’t say how. But she did confirm that the NYT, which so far has given away nearly 4 million downloads of its ad-supported iPhone news app, will add a paid iPad app to the free limited Editors Choice app currently covered by an exclusive deal with Chase Sapphire.
Robinson spent significant time highlighting the success of the NYT’s multi-platform mobile strategy: 78 million pageviews in March, the iPhone downloads, the upcoming paid iPad app, getting on the Sony (NYSE: SNE) Reader and the Nook. Again, though, no real sense of what it means in terms of money. As intriguing as the numbers are to us and as important as they might be one day, for now they’re a blip.
[I think I have a different version of Editors’ Choice. Robinson described one that “takes advantages of the device’s large-screen display, as well as video and slideshow capability” with “simple navigation, offline reading and sharing options.” Simple navigation yes, but the app I have — and yes, it’s updated — is limited to e-mail when it comes to sharing, has no offline option that I can find. No video right now, either.]
Advertising: Robinson said NYTimes.com saw “sizable gains” in blue chip display advertising from large format display ad units– Polo Ralph Lauren, CBS (NYSE: CBS), Discovery Channel, Starbucks. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) AdSense is the only indirect inventory; no outside ad networks. The wuarter started off with postive growth that accelerated with increases in January (5 percent), February (12 percent) and March (18 percent). About’s display advertising showed “marked” improvements from top brands lie Disney (NYSE: DIS), T-Mobile, P&G.
One particularly interesting number from the Q&A — classified is down to 14 percent of nytimes.com ad mix. The numbers are more what you might expect for the Boston Globe and the regional group, 48 percent and 42 percent respectively, but overall for the company, including About, it’s 13 percent.
Competition: Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp (NYSE: NWS). team make no bones about taking on the Times with their upcoming New York edition. But Robinson and the NYT want the WSJ to be viewed as part of the competition, not singled out. That resulted in Robinson, always a lady, being challenged by analyst Craig Huber about combating Murdoch and pushing back in the firmest tone possible — “We don