The Washington Post Building
The Washington Post Building

Thanks to its cable and education businesses, the third-quarter profit of the Washington Post Co. jumped 69 percent.

The good news would have been better if not for the fortunes of the newspaper division, which includes the flagship Washington Post plus some lesser-known papers.

For the first half of 2009, that division was cranking the losses: $143 million, to be exact. In the third quarter, the flow of red ink slowed quite a bit, with a deficit of just $23.6 million. That brings the division’s annual losses to $166.7 million. Bad, to be sure, but not quite as bad as, say, $225 million, which is where it would have landed if the losses had continued apace.

A look inside those newspaper numbers provides an interesting glimpse at the environment faced by the Post Co. Third-quarter revenue for this division in 2008 was $196 million, compared with $156 million in the third quarter of this year.

OK, that’s a nasty drop, the sort of drop that leads you to wonder if there really is a bottom to this thing.

But look at the expense side, and this is where all the Post buyouts and other cost-cutting moves are starting to make an impact:

3Q 2008 Expenses: $279 million
3Q 2009 Expenses: $180 million

In those two numbers lies an entire business strategy, a vision for surviving as a media company in these times. And that is, slash costs like mad and cross your fingers.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery/File