Good Timing For the Paywall

Speaking of WaPo, here’s some news that is nicely timed to coincide with its introduction of a paywall (or more likely, a meter) for its online content this summer, from Politico‘s Dylan Byers:

The Washington Post Co. on Friday reported bad news for its newspaper division, with revenue totaling $127.3 million for the first quarter of this year — down four percent from 2012 — and an operating loss of $34.5 million.

Overall, the company posted a profit of just $4.7 million, an 85 percent drop in earnings from the net income of $31 million for the first quarter of last year.

If you keep reading, you learn WaPo’s online operations are doing just fine. And in the newspaper division, it’s not just killing trees that’s the problem:

For this year’s first quarter, the company noted much of the $34.5 million in operating losses come from pension, early retirement and severance expenses. In the first quarter of 2012, the company’s newspaper division lost $20.6 million, for comparison.

It’s expensive to shrink, at least if you are a news organization with a pension system, and which bothers to offer buy-outs and severance pay. Lots of media outfits these days just say have a nice life, usually late on Friday afternoons. This very day, it’s happening to somebody, and for all I know a lot of somebodies.

But in any event, looks like WaPo won’t have the embarrassment of robust earnings reports appearing in its pages just as it starts charging online readers for content.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.