Washington Post Swings To Profit; Newspaper Display Up 17 Percent

For the most part, The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) had a pretty good Q1 — except, of course, for the magazine division (i.e., Newsweek), which saw revenue plunge 36 percent to $29.4 million. While Newsweek had a for sale sign hung on it this week, the newspaper division’s troubles have sharply abated. In Q1, newspaper revs declined 3 percent, a vast improvement over last year’s deep 22 percent drop. But the good news on the newspaper publishing side, which is primarily represented by WaPo’s flagship, came from the web, as display revs jumped 17 percent. (For more details on Newsweek’s dismal Q1, see Staci D. Kramer’s piece here.)

Earlier this week, the WaPo’s online-only Slate Group said that its ad revenues were up 52 percent. The positive results at Slate, which is part of the newspaper division, weren’t able to obscure the continued struggles for its print-based sibling as the washingtonpost.com’s classified sales were down 22 percent, hardly better than Q109’s 23 percent fall.

Here’s a snapshot of the newspaper division’s during Q1:

— Print ad revenue at The Washington Post fell 8 percent to $68.7 million, largely due to pullback in general and retail advertising.

— The paper’s daily circ dropped 12.5 percent, while Sunday circulation slid 10.4 percent. The company blamed it on the abnormally higher circ surrounding the news around last year’s presidential inauguration.

— The division posted an operating loss of $13.8 million, considerable improvement over last year’s $53.8 million loss.

Overall, net income was $45.4 million ($4.91 per share) versus the $19.2 million ($2.04 loss per share) net loss in Q109. As usual, the company’s strength came from its cable and education units.