Anyone who has flipped through a newspaper lately has probably read of the obstacles facing the paper publishing business. Of course, fewer and fewer people have been picking up their local paper, which is part of the problem.
With the industry mired in a slump that shows no signs of ending, three of its heaviest hitters went down in order last month. Within the span of a week, Gannett
Today, it was Washington Post's
As always, the company's Kaplan Education unit more than carried its own weight, but this time it was unable to offset across the board weakness everywhere else. Revenues generated by the Education division (which has overtaken newspaper publishing as the Post's largest) jumped 25% to reach $345.8 million, but those from magazine, cable, and newspaper operations only rose 8%, 2%, and 1%, respectively, while broadcasting revenues actually declined 2% thanks to a lack of political advertising.
At best, the Post turned out mixed results. Excluding operating income from Education (which climbed 16% to $34.1 million), the other four divisions combined reported total operating income of $103.6 million -- an 11% drop from last year. Much of that weakness can be attributed to the company's core newspaper operations, which registered a steep 28% decline. The rising cost of newsprint, pension and payroll expenses, and the acquisition of the Slate all helped slash operating margins by more than 450 basis points in the quarter.
The company's magazine publishing segment reported stronger revenues and earnings, though the favorable timing of an industry trade show deserves most of the credit. Newsweek still continues to struggle, with advertising revenues down by 11% on a year-to-date basis.
On the cable television front, the Post lost a few of its basic cable subscribers, and also reported a modest decline in the number of digital cable customers. However, it has picked up more than 57,000 high-speed Internet users over the past year.
Like its rivals, the Post is struggling to cope with a challenging operating environment, but today's shortfall was probably more of an aberration than a warning sign. Still, with industry fundamentals that continue to deteriorate, I wouldn't expect shares of the Post -- which trade at a hefty PEG ratio of 2.2 -- to be trotting around the bases anytime soon.
Care to catch up on yesterday's news?
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.