A book and the figures of the first six months of 2010 tell us what is in store for the prestigious Graham family daily.
The book is "Morning miracle, Inside the Washington Post" by David Kindred (Doubleday). The author, a well known Whashington journalist tells us about the recent story of the newspaper, and why it is facing a major crisis and upheaval. After 40 years of prosperity, everything has gone wrong for the Pulitzer prize winning paper. The circulation has gone down from 800 000 copies to 560 000. The classified ads have deserted to go to Internet. The management has been obliged to reduce the staff, close offices all over the country and try to make for growing losses. Now, the group depends for its well beeing on Kaplan, its education branch which provides incomes the newspaper cannot provide any more. Still, the Graham family keeps the helm. Don Graham, the chairman has put his niece Katharine Weymouth as publisher. It is anybody's guess whether the Internet services on Washington Post.com and Slate.com will help the information services to be more than a small subsidiary of Kaplan which is already 5 times bigger than the newspaper branch.
The last six months figures delivered on http://www.washpost.com/ are not helpful. Kaplan is more and more profitable: its revenus has gone up by 17%, to 1458 million dollars.Its profit is 166 million compared to 69 million in 2009. The daily has lost 28 million dollars, less than 143 millions for the same period of 2009 but worrying still. Classified ads keep moving to Internet and the circulation has gone down by 10% from 2009.
The Internet services of the daily and Slate do not make for these losses with only 50 millions of revenue (+ 10%). Advertising grows by 20% but classified are down by 4%.
It is obvious that the Washington Post which decided only last year to merge the daily and Intenet news desks, has a long way to go before competing with the New York Times whose Web site is a leader for information in the US.