WaPo Newspaper Revenues Plummet

Newspaper publishing revenues at the Washington Post Company plummeted 13% to $197.3 million in the second quarter compared to the same period last year--placing the company's flagship newspaper squarely in the same crowded doghouse as the rest of the newspaper industry.

The company also saw revenue declines in its broadcast and magazine publishing divisions. However, positive results at the company's growing educational and cable divisions more than offset these losses--driving overall revenue growth of 6%, to just over $1.1 billion.

Total print advertising revenue fell 22% in the second quarter, to $99.8 million. Like other newspapers, the Washington Post's print advertising is being hit with a triple whammy of declining classified, national, and retail ad revenues. However, the company did not release specific figures for each of the three categories.

The newspaper division did see growth in its online revenues, but growth slowed compared to last year. In the second quarter, online revenues grew just 4% or $1.1 million to $29.3 million, compared to growth of 11% or $2.9 million last year. As with the rest of the newspaper business, display ads--up 11% in the quarter--are driving online growth, as online classifieds fell 1%.



The decline in online classifieds is partly due to the economic downturn, and partly to the way they are sold. Generally, online classifieds are still marketed as "upsells" to print listings; as print listings implode, there are simply fewer opportunities for online upsells.

The Washington Post's magazine publishing division, centered on its flagship Newsweek, saw revenue tumble 15% to $62.7 million. That's largely due to a 21% decrease in ad revenue at Newsweek, resulting in a decrease in the rate base from 3.1 million to 2.6 million, and the sharp decline in ad pages affecting newsweeklies in general. According to the Publishers Information Bureau, Newsweek's ad pages fell 29.3% compared to the second quarter of 2007, to 349.

There is also a disparity of $19.4 million between Newsweek's official rate card revenues of $82.1 million, as reported by the PIB, and the actual revenues of $62.7 million, as reported by the company. This suggests that Newsweek, like other consumer magazines, has been selling ads at a substantial discount off the official rates (in this case, almost 25%).

Broadcast was also a drag on the company's revenues, falling 6% to $82.8 million. The company noted that the decline occurred despite a boost from political ad spending in the second quarter.

The bright spots were the cable division--up 16% to $178.9 million--and the education division, centered on Kaplan, where revenues jumped 14% to $576.5 million. Cable increased because of continued growth in cable modem, telephone and digital revenues, along with rate increases for some high-speed data services. Education revenues were up partly because of newly acquired businesses; excluding these, revenues were up 11%.

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