Washington Post: the latest example of print ad plunge
Just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse for newspapers, it somehow manages to get even bleaker. Today’s example is provided by the Washington Post Co and its flagship paper (and the online site Slate). The company reported third quarter earnings including results from its newspaper division today.
Print advertising revenue fell 20 percent to $57.6 million — quite a stunning plunge even as newspapers across the U.S. manage to post quarter after quarter of print ad revenue declines. Even more disturbing is that online revenue, which includes washingtonpost.com and Slate, plunged 14 percent to $23.3 million. Display online ad revenue dropped 17 percent.
The Washington Post is one of those curious oddities in the industry that manages to be extremely local — it’s market penetration of the D.C. area has always been one of the highest in the U.S. — and also draws the interest of a large national audience. So while it may compete with the “nationals” i.e. New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, on the news front, it is very dependent on local advertising. The NYT, USAT and WSJ get a hefty portion of their advertising revenue through national advertisers.
The local advertising category hasn’t been holding up as well as national advertising. It’s taking it on the chin as the housing market struggles, unemployment remains high and retail outlets are going out of business or simply taking their advertising elsewhere.
That’s not to say that national advertising revenue isn’t hurting as well. It’s more of a mixed bag. At the New York Times, for example, the division that mainly includes its flagship paper reported advertising revenue fell 6 percent to $156.1 million in Q3.
Gannett, which publishes USAT, used to give some information on how that paper was doing by reporting paid ad pages, but the company ceased — to use the parlance of research analysts — to provide more color on the USAT front. Instead, Gannett reports that national advertising, including USAT, fell 17 percent. USAT represents a big chunk of Gannett’s national advertising.
The Wall Street Journal manages somehow to defy these trends. Ad revenue rose 13 percent in the third quarter– that includes print and online – according to a memo from Dow Jones’ top executive Todd Larsen to employees.