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Washington Post Co. profits slump on news losses

Pedestrians pass next to a newspaper vending machine offering The Washington Post in Washington DC on April 16, 2013
Pedestrians pass next to a newspaper vending machine offering The Washington Post featuring the aftermath of the Boston bombings on its front page in Washington DC on April 16, 2013. The Washington Post Co. eked out a slim profit in the first quarter as e

The Washington Post Co. eked out a slim profit in the first quarter as earnings from cable and broadcast television operations offset losses from its flagship daily newspaper.

In results released Friday, the company said newspaper operations were hit by slumping circulation and print advertising revenues, offset in part by gains in digital ad sales.

Overall, the Washington Post Co. profit for the quarter was $4.7 million, a drop of 85 percent from the same period a year ago when the net profit was $31 million.

Revenues were virtually flat from a year ago at $959 million.

The results showed an operating loss for newspaper operations of $34.5 million, while cable television delivered an operating profit of $36.6 million and broadcasting earned $35.3 million. The company's education operations showed a $4 million loss amid restructuring.

Newspaper publishing revenue fell four percent from a year ago to $127.3 million, with print advertising down eight percent.

One bright spot from its publishing operations were revenue gains of eight percent at online operations including washingtonpost.com and Slate. That included a 16 percent rise in display online advertising revenue, while online classified sales fell six percent.

Circulation of the daily newspaper fell 7.2 percent over the past year to 457,100, and Sunday circulation dropped 7.7 percent to 659,500.

The Post has set aside $20.4 million for a voluntary retirement plan offered to some employees at the paper.

The company plans to implement a "paywall" later this year for online access, with some details still to be finalized.

The move, which had been expected, will require a paid subscription after 20 articles or multimedia features have been read per month.

The Post had been one of the last top US newspapers to offer its content free of charge online, but has been facing financial struggles along with the rest of the industry.

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