Although there's a very good argument to prefer companies with focus, Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) shows why sometimes it's good to have a diversified business. With its core newspaper business under pressure, it's nice to see that some of its other sectors are able to help offset some of the troubles.

Third-quarter earnings at Washington Post increased 10% to $73.3 million, or $7.60 per share, including a goodwill impairment charge related to PostNewsweek Tech Media of $0.65 per share, and a gain of $0.29 per share from sales of property and securities, as well as benefits from a lower tax rate. Operating income decreased 3% to $108.6 million. Sales increased 8% to $946.9 million.

Recent circulation data shows that the newspaper industry is still struggling. So it's no surprise that Washington Post's major driver to sales was not newspapers but educational-tools provider Kaplan, which reported a revenue increase of 16% to $420.6 million. The company's broadcast and cable divisions were also strong points, with 11% and 16% increases in sales, respectively.

The core newspaper business was fairly lackluster, in keeping with recent quarterly results from peers such as Dow Jones (NYSE:DJ) and New York Times (NYSE:NYT). Washington Post's newspaper-publishing revenues dropped 4% to $225.6 million on a drop in print-ad revenue as well as increased pension expenses, and the division's operating income fell 38%. A bright spot was the online segment, which reported revenues 24% higher at $24.5 million.

The magazine-publishing division, which includes Newsweek magazine, suffered a sales drop of 3% because of a reduction in circulation, although that was offset by a 3% increase in ad revenue caused by an increase in ad pages.

Although the news obviously wasn't all bad across Washington Post's stable of businesses, its third-quarter results still missed analysts' expectations.

I've said before that were I to consider investing in this industry, I'd gravitate toward newspaper companies that have a strong online presence and a stable of strong brands, such as Dow Jones. Of course Washington Post does have a diversified collection of businesses, and Kaplan's notably not even in the news business at all. However, given the continued growth pressures on its newspaper business and a quick glance at Washington Post's double-digit P/E ratio of 22, I don't see any reason to think it's a compelling idea at the moment.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.