Newspapers sure do seem sick. Many have grown thinner and narrower, with shrinking circulations, shrinking workforces, and challenges galore. It's enough to make you want to swear off investing in the newspaper industry completely, no?
But hold on -- not all newspaper companies are alike. Yes, New York Times
Look at Washington Post a little more closely, though, and you may be surprised. Here are some interesting things I learned from CEO Donald Graham's presentation at the company's annual shareholders meeting:
- Despite a decline in net income being down (largely a result of non-cash writedowns), the company generated more than $500 million in cash flow from operations.
- I think of the company for its newspaper business, but newspaper publishing contributed just 15% of revenue in the company's latest quarter. It's actually a diversified media company, with broadcast television and magazines contributing 10% of revenue, cable television 17%, and education fully 56% -- up from 51% a year earlier! Not everyone realizes it, but the company bought Stanley Kaplan's test-prep business in 1984, and it has been a solid grower. Kaplan now sports the online Kaplan University, competing with the likes of Apollo Group's
(NASDAQ:APOL)University of Phoenix, ITT Educational Services (NYSE:ESI), and Corinthian Colleges (NASDAQ:COCO).
- In the first quarter of 2009, while the Post's newspapers and magazines lost $74 million in operating income, cable television and education together generated more than $50 million. But among newspapers, the Post still impresses, boasting a hefty 35% reach in its market, more than twice that of The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. The Post's circulation is down, but only modestly, and less than most other papers.
- The company has launched some new media websites, and it recently hired a new "chief digital officer," Vijay Ravindran, formerly of Amazon.com
To me, this isn't a company that looks doomed. It's fighting a tough newsprint battle, but it has also invested in some growing businesses. So before you figure that every company in a given industry is bound to fail, take a closer look and see whether you really have the whole story.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.