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Aug 1, 2008

Washington Post Reeling: Print Ads Down 22%, Online Growth Slowing To A Crawl

Washington Post Reeling: Print Ads Down 22%, Online Growth Slowing To A Crawl

newsies.jpgNo point in comparing the Washington Post's Q2 numbers to Wall Street's expectations -- the newspaper business has gotten hammered so badly that only one analyst -- Lehman's Craig Huber -- is offering up estimates anymore. But for the record, the Post's (WPO) performance was worse than Craig predicted.

The details: The company lost 31 cents a share on revenue of $1.1 billion, which is up 6%. Back out one-time charges and EPS climbs back to $5.70 -- below Craig's $6.90, if you're scoring at home. But those numbers include Wapo's Kaplan group, which continues to do quite well.

The newspaper unit, of course is a different story:

Revenue $197 million, down 13% y/y

Operating income, net of a $79.8 million charge for buyouts/layoffs, is a $16.9 million loss, versus a $17.7 million gain last year. That's because both advertisers and subscribers are fleeing the paper: Print advertising was down 22% in the quarter, with subs for the daily edition down 2.6% and the Sunday edition down 3.7% for the first half of 2008.

What about online? No help there: online revenue growth is slowing. Digital was up a mere 4%, to $29.3 million, decelerating from modest 8% growth in Q1. Display ads were up 11%, down from 17% in Q1, and classified ads on washingtonpost.com shrank by 1%; in Q1 they'd at least grown 2%. ...

Hearst-Argyle TV: Misses Estimates, Local Ad Sales Off 10%

tvgraphic.jpegAs we learned from CBS yesterday, local TV is getting hammered by the ad slowdown. More evidence: Hearst-Argyle TV (HTV), one of the largest independent owners of network-affiliated stations, missed Q2 estimates for revenue and EPS. Total revenue for the quarter was down 5.6% to $182 million compared to $149 million on year ago. EPS came in at 15 cents a share. Analysts had been looking for $190 million revenue and 20 cents, but only three analysts bothered to do a forecast for the company.

The problem: Hearst-Argyle is near 100% dependent on local US ad revenue, the hardest-hit sector in TV. Non-political Q2 ad sales were down 10% from the year before, with weakness across multiple ad categories: automotive, retail, consumer packaged goods, telecommunications, furniture, movies, restaurants, and health services.

The company didn't provide guidance for Q3, but it should benefit a somewhat from the ramp-up of political spending in battleground states. The company also owns 10 NBC affiliates, which should be getting some of the $150 million in local Olympics-related advertising. The bad news is that digital revenue for the company is slowing down, too. Digital revenue was up 13% in the quarter to to $5.7 million, a deceleration from the 22% growth in Q1...

Opinion: Are blogs replacing newspapers?

Don Dodge from the Microsoft Startup Zone has said that blogs are replacing newspapers with regard breaking news and analysis and fast becoming more professional.

There are 25% less traditional journalists in the United States than 10 years ago, and this fact has been put at the door of Web 2.0. 

The public's perception of blogs is also evolving, the general public are starting to view them as reliable news sources.

"Convergence in digital technologies the blending of computing, telephony and screen-based media devices is something we can't ignore," saysMartin Hirst is the Curriculum Leader and Associate Professor of Journalism at the Auckland University of Technology.

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