Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Upside at the Washington Post: At Least Web Ads Didn’t Disappear Last Quarter

old-printing-pressAt this point you need to be a skilled relativist to find something positive to say about the newspaper business. Last fall, for instance, executives at the Washington Post Co. (WPO) could argue that while their flagship newspaper had a lousy third quarter, it represented an improvement over their second quarter, which was abysmal.

But that won’t work for the company’s fourth-quarter results since those show yet more weakness in its print businesses. So here’s some upside: At least the paper’s online business didn’t fall off a cliff in Q4–which is more than you can say about the New York Times.

The numbers:

  • Newspaper division revenue was down 13 percent; the previous quarter it declined a mere seven percent.
  • Print advertising declined 21 percent; that’s worse than the 14 percent decline the previous quarter.
  • Revenues at the company’s magazine group were down 18 percent; in Q3 they were down a mere four percent. Newsweek’s revenue dropped 22 percent, and that decline will continue as the company pares back its circulation base.
  • The good news I promised? Online revenue was up five percent, and display ads were up 10 percent. Both of those numbers represent decelerations from Q3, when overall online revenue was up 13 percent and display was up 32 percent. But that’s better than the folks over at the Times, who saw online ads shrink altogether in Q4.

Why would the Times see online revenue fall off a cliff while the Post only saw growth slow? I’m open to suggestions: The most obvious one is that the Times has much more national exposure than the Post (both companies also have regional papers in the mix, and the Times’s results include its unit). But if anything, you’d think that disparity would benefit the Times. Anyone else want to weigh in?