According to the Feb. 12 business section of the New York Times – concerning its leading Fourth-Estate rival, the Washington Post – reporter Jeremy Peters, in a long story, discloses:

  • “Though company managers say privately that the Post is modestly profitable, its newspaper division, which also includes a group of community papers and the Herald of Everett, Wash., reported an operating loss of nearly $26 million through the first three quarters of last year.”

  • The Post’s “newsroom, once with more than 1,000 employees, now stands at less than 640 people, depleted by buyouts and staff defections. The newspaper’s Style section, once one of the most coveted assignments in American journalism, has shrunk from nearly 100 people to a quarter of that size. Bureaus in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are gone. There were so many Friday afternoon cake-cutting send-offs for departing employees last summer that editors had to coordinate them so they didn’t overlap.”

Let me further note that Washington Post circulation is substantially down.

Robert Kaiser, senior Post writer and editor who has been with the paper since 1963, told the Times, “When I was managing editor of the Washington Post, everything we did was better than anyone in the business. We had the best weather, the best comics, the best news report, the fullest news report. Today, there’s a competitor who does every element of what we do, and many of them do it better. We’ve lost our edge in some very profound and fundamental ways.”

Peters again:

“Last week, the paper announced a fresh round of voluntary buyouts, an effort to cut 20 more positions as managers reckoned once again with the painful reality that the Post was not making enough money to support the staff it employed.”

The Times did report one positive development: “Recently, it has averaged 19.6 million unique visitors a month, according to comScore, making it the second-most-visited American newspaper website, behind that of the New York Times.”

But are those “unique visitors” the same as subscribers? I really think not – and non-paying visitors don’t pay any of the bills.

Will the Washington Post try charging subscription-like fees to any of those 19 million? And if it does, just how long does the Post believe that online figure would remain at 19 million?

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