Posted October 30, 2009 12:15 pm by with 2 comments

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Washington Post LogoI am still rubbing my eyes to see if this is one of those sleep-deprived, delusional, mirage type things that can play tricks with you. Nope, it’s real but you don’t need to peel back too many layers on this one to see that the newspaper side of the Washington Post Co.’s business is actually keeping that number lower. At least you can think that the paper can be propped up by the other media holdings for the time being.

In a bit of irony it’s the New York Times that reports

The company, which owns Newsweek magazine, Kaplan education services and television properties along with its namesake newspaper, said Friday it earned $17.1 million, or $1.81 per share. That compares with net income of $10.1 million, or $1.08 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue climbed 2 percent to $1.15 billion.

The newspaper division, which includes the Post, The Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., and dozens of local weeklies, whittled its operating losses through buyouts and cost-cutting to $23.6 million, down from $82.7 million a year ago.

So at least the Washington Post newspaper is cutting back on its losses. That’s good in a backwards kinda way isn’t it? This ‘positive’ movement did happen despite a steeper than expected 28% decrease in advertising revenue for the quarter. Industry wide the news continues to play like a cheap Halloween horror movie with the carnage still happening at a rapid pace and no real end in site for the grisly results.

The Post’s decline was comparable to what has been reported by other big publishers — which also have managed to improve earnings by cutting labor and other expenses. The New York Times Co.’s advertising revenue plunged 27 percent in the most recent quarter. Ad revenue in Gannett Co.’s publishing division, which includes USA Today and more than 80 other newspapers, dropped 28 percent.

So it looks like the best way to survive as a newspaper is to be part of a company that is diversified. If you are a newspaper only organization or the dependence on revenue is heavily weighted toward newspaper holdings the news is still grim. In a near throwaway line fro the Times, the story gets even darker since the idea that being online as a newspaper will ensure survival is not a sure thing at all.

The Post Co.’s newspaper Web revenue, which comes mainly from, also stalled. It fell 18 percent after showing a 9 percent decline in the previous quarter.

They call that a stall? I call it a call for the lifeboats. Two consecutive quarters of a shrinking economy defines a recession so this indicator is that even the online side of the newspaper business is not going well at all. If that goes south as well as the print editions then what else is there? Nothing.

Well, I like reading a paper in the right circumstances as much as the next guy but I wonder when the day comes that there won’t be one to buy and read?

Any fortune tellers out there? Gotta a date for the end of the newspaper era?

  • Why do they keep running these operations at a loss? Don’t they see their colleagues/competitors going bankrupt? Cut the cord now, preserve the cash, circle the wagons, and if you think you discover a way out, go for it; if not, distribute the cash and close up shop. Don’t wait until you’re bankrupt to close up shop. Stop sending those dang paper newspapers to the stands every day.

  • DonAlons

    Instead of fortune telling: a look at the pricing strategy for advertisers, in that case rather
    extreme. But no exception to the rule of actually fleecing businesses.
    That article is a bit older, telling the story of ad rates going up while circulation went down.
    One of the mentioned papers folded meantime, not surprisingly. Surprising may only be
    how long it took to fold. Businesses were generally pretty complacent with their ad spending,
    never really followed up or checked out whether their ad spending makes any sense at all.