Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Washington Post Turns in Another Lousy Quarter. But It Could Have Been Worse

MediaMemo worries that it is going to be writing grim stories about layoffs at media companies for many months. So it’s going to try very hard to find some good news whenever it can.

Take the Washington Post Company’s (WPO) Q3 report card, for instance. It’s bad. But it’s better than the last one the troubled newspaper and education company earned.

And yes, you have to be in the media business to look at a seven percent yearly decline in revenue, which is what Wapo’s newspaper group recorded, as a positive. But that decrease is better than Q2, when newspaper revenues were down 13 percent.

And there are more lemonade-from-lemon stats available:

  • Online ads are up 13 percent year-over-year, an acceleration from the four percent growth they recorded in Q2. And given that most publishers saw decreasing growth this summer, that’s a decent achievement. Display ads were up 32 percent. (Flipside: Lucrative online classified ads were down eight percent).
  • Print ads declined 14 percent y/y, but that’s better than the 22 percent decrease last quarter.
  • Revenues at WPO’s magazine group were down four percent, but that’s better than Q2’s 15 percent decrease. And ads at Newsweek were down 13 percent, but last quarter they declined 21 percent.

Meanwhile WPO’s Kaplan education unit, which now accounts for more than half of the company’s revenue, did just fine. And its cable group did well, too.

There. Doesn’t that feel better?

Alas, MediaMemo does have to point out that the company’s local TV group did poorly, just like most local TV groups have been doing.

The unit’s revenues were basically flat at $78 million. But if you strip out one-time boosts from political and Olympic-related ads, it’s down some 8.5 percent, which is worse than last quarter’s six percent decline. Happy Halloween!

[Image Credit: cliff1066]

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald