Political Animal


May 03, 2013 3:55 PM Good Timing For the Paywall

By Ed Kilgore

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.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on May 03, 2013 4:08 PM:

    After what they've done to the Op-ed pages, and a lot of the newsreporters, pardon me if my tear ducts stay dry.

    Plus, these soundrel's are one of the biggest movers in the privatization of education, and on-line education scams.

    Well, as much as I used to love and respect newspapers, I haven't cared about that one in a long, long time.
    Now that they're behing a pay wall - I can say that they're finally dead to me.

    But then, they've been near-dead to me for a long time. Ever since Hiatt welcomed W's fellow War Criminals, and accomplices, to opine, and got rid of a lot of good reporters.


  • skeptonomist on May 03, 2013 4:13 PM:

    "operating losses" don't come from pension, early retirement and severance expenses. Those things are just liabilities - they don't provide income. Apparently actual operating income - you know, money taken in on paper sales and advertising - is less than enough to pay for these things, or else somebody was counting on more investment income than there has actually been - although only a nitwit would expect the stock market to do better than it has since 2009 (and bond prices too).

  • Dee on May 03, 2013 4:40 PM:

    I used to be a regular reader of WaPo, but the comments have become so abusive and racicst, I don't bother anymore.
    The stories have become a lot more right leaning as well.

  • Tired Liberal on May 03, 2013 4:51 PM:

    The paywall model for online content makes sense, but not as it is structured now. I like to get my news from a variety of sources and have always read some content from several different national papers (NYT, WP, LA Times and others) each day. I feel I need to subscribe to my local newspaper in order to support news coverage of state and local issues. We need a model that would allow one to pay one reasonable fee for the opportunity to read a modest number of articles each day from several different national papers.

  • kindness on May 03, 2013 5:59 PM:

    Hmmm. When discussing the possibility of having to pay for content, no matter how remote or distant, one should know NOT to use Politico as a reference for any matter unless that argument is to make fun of Politico. Otherwise, you lose a large percentage of your readers right then and there.

    We intertubes users are a fickle bunch.

  • S. Holland on May 03, 2013 7:45 PM:

    Truly, you and Bernstein are the ONLY reason I come here!

  • angler on May 03, 2013 8:50 PM:

    The WP always rightwing masquerading as centrist? Or, liberal to Con sellout of a once great America? I think that question could be applied to almost every institution in the country.

    The paywall is coming, like winter in Game of Thrones, and it's changing what was the internet status quo of the past decade--free content. For the WP it wont help, however, because they don't generate enough content worth paying for.

  • giantslor on May 03, 2013 11:04 PM:

    WaPo does have Wonkblog and Plum Line. The other stuff is negligible to bad.