By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Washington Post will raise its newsstand price from 35 cents to 50 cents beginning with editions of Dec. 31, the company said yesterday, responding to the paper's decline in circulation and advertising revenue.
The home delivery price for The Post and the Sunday newsstand price will not change.
The Post's most recent newsstand price increase came in 2001, when it went from 25 cents to 35 cents.
For a decade, the median daily price for U.S. newspapers has been 50 cents, according to the Newspaper Association of America. According to the group's 2005 statistics, 81 percent of papers charged 50 cents per daily copy, with 6 percent charging 35 cents. In the past two years, a few newspapers have raised their single-copy price from 50 cents to 75 cents.
"The daily newspaper has a lot of value in it for 50 cents, and investments continue to be made in it," Post publisher and chief executive Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. said yesterday. "The newspaper's business model is based on a mix of advertising and circulation revenue." About 80 percent of The Post's revenue comes from advertising, with the rest coming from circulation.
Over the past six years, The Post, like most U.S. newspapers, has watched its circulation and advertising revenue decline, in part because readers and ad dollars are fleeing ink-on-paper newspapers for other media, principally the Internet.
Post daily circulation peaked at 832,232 in 1993. It now sells an average of 638,000 papers Monday through Saturday.
Newsstand, or single-copy, sales account for 18 percent of daily sales of The Post. The bulk of its lost circulation in the past 14 years has come from a decline in single-copy sales.
The paper said the circulation loss following the last newsstand price increase was minimal and it hoped for a similar result this time. When the New York Times raised its daily newsstand price from $1 to $1.25 (and increased its home-delivery rates by 3 to 4 percent) in July, the circulation drop-off was less than anticipated, the company found. The Times Co. said its third-quarter circulation revenue rose 4 percent because of the summer price increase.
The Post's price increase follows a sharp drop in the newspaper division's third-quarter operating income and precedes a 2008 that promises little better, as some economists predict that the subprime mortgage crisis could lead to a recession.
In its third-quarter earnings, The Post Co. reported that operating income for the company's newspaper division -- largely, The Post -- dropped by 50 percent from the same period last year, to $8.8 million. The division is on pace for about $63 million in total operating income this year. By comparison, in 1989, three years before The Post began to lose circulation, operating income was $176 million.
Although viewership and advertising have gone up at washingtonpost.com, they have not risen enough to make up for the shortfall at the newspaper. The Web site makes about one-fifth the advertising revenue of the newspaper.