The Washington Post Company earned a $3.2M operating profit for the fourth-quarter of 2009, triggering celebratory high-fives throughout the newspaper business.
The newspaper lost $14.4M during last year's period. The Q4 profit was the paper's first in about two years.
Okay, the newspaper division lost $163M for the full-year, but even that massive red ink flow compares favorably to the $193M '08 loss. The Post posted a smaller revenue decline for Q4 (-4% to $193M) than for the entire year (-15% to $680M).
Sadly, the good news was largely a result of relentless cost-cutting. At the Post, 221 staffers accepted a voluntary retirement incentive program in '09, costing the company $57M.
That followed a voluntary layoff plan in '08 that affected 231 staffers at a cost of $80M.
The cuts are getting pretty close to the bone. Daily circulation declined 5.9 percent to 595,800 in '09, while Sunday circ slipped 4.7 percent to 831,300.
News was not very encouraging on the online front. Washingtonpost.com registered an eight percent decline in revenues to $99.6M during the year. Online display revenues grew a skimpy two percent during for Q4, but 13 percent for the full-year. Classified ads dipped 24 percent and 17 percent for the year and quarter, respectively.
Washington Post Co. CEO Donald Graham, a guy who always reminds Wall Street that he is mostly in the education (rather than publishing) business, reports that his Kaplan testing/training operation enjoyed a 13 percent boost in '09 revenues to $2.6B.
Operating profit slipped a tad to $194.8 from $206M in '09 due to several charges and one-time items. Kaplan enrollment surged 32 percent to 104,900 students. Its Kaplan University online operation showed a 47 percent boost in student growth.
Wall Street applauded the Post's financials, bidding the stock up $9.49 to the $422 mark. That stock gain almost topped the stock price of WaPo rival, New York Times Co., which has stock trading at $10.97 a share.
Graham would get a standing ovation from the Street if he came up with a plan to spin off the Post.