Monday, March 01, 2010

Fall of the Washington Post, Part One

The Washington Post Company is in the middle of a tumultuous transition. Some of its businesses are doing well. Some are not. The components of the company are headed in different directions. And none of it bodes well for the area’s newspaper of record.

The key to understanding the Washington Post Company is understanding that it is not a newspaper. It is a multi-industry conglomerate that owns, and is named after, a newspaper. The company has five primary business lines: the flagship newspaper and a host of smaller newspapers, like the Gazette; Cable ONE, a cable television service; six broadcast television stations in Houston, Detroit, Miami, Orlando, San Antonio and Jacksonville; Newsweek magazine and its affiliates; and Kaplan Inc., which provides educational services.

Kaplan, not the newspapers, accounted for a majority of the company’s $4.5 billion in revenues in 2008.

And Kaplan, not the newspapers, accounted for a majority of the company’s 20,000 full-time employees in 2008.

Kaplan’s primacy and the newspapers’ decline is the result of decades worth of diverging choices and performance. In this series, we will open the Washington Post Company’s record vaults at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and take you on an unprecedented investigation of the company’s financial history. We’ll find out what the company was, what it is now and what it could very well be in the future. It is time for the truth to emerge in all its unholy glory!

Tomorrow, we will start with the newspaper.