UPDATE 2-Washington Post ad sales weak; Kaplan shows growth

Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:29am EST

* Fourth qtr net profit falls 22 pct

* Student sign-ups at Kaplan grows 3 pct

* Ad sales at newspaper, TV and online fall

Feb 24 (Reuters) - The Washington Post Co's profit slipped again due to advertising woes but its key Kaplan education business seemed to be getting its feet back on the ground as student sign-ups grew for the first time in five quarters.

New enrollments at Kaplan colleges rose 3 percent for the October-December period, compared with the 30-45 percent declines over the last four quarters.

Student sign-ups across the for-profit education industry fell in 2011 due a government crackdown that revealed unethical practices, low graduation rates and huge student debt loads.

The colleges were told to clean-up their act and tighten enrollment standards, or risk losing federal aid.

Kaplan -- which brings in almost 60 percent of Washington Post's total revenue -- implemented a program that allowed students to take up a free trial of the program they want to sign up for, before taking a final decision.

The improved new student sign-ups at Kaplan follows growth reported by peers such as Apollo Group and Corinthian Colleges.

FALLING ADS

Print advertising revenue and circulation fell about 6 percent at the Washington Post newspaper. Advertising at its television and online businesses also fell.

Like most U.S. newspapers, Washington Post has been hit by falling advertising revenue and circulation as more readers switch to digital media.

But unlike its peers like the New York Times, Washington Post has not established a paywall to access its online content.

The company's third-quarter net income fell to $61.7 million, or $8.03 a share, from $79 million, or $9.42 a share, a year ago.

Excluding special items, it earned $8.96 per share. Revenue fell 10 percent to $1.06 billion.

Last year, shareholders of the Post pushed the management to consider a spinoff or sell some of its businesses. However, chief executive Don Graham is reluctant to do so.

Earlier this month, the company offered voluntary buyouts to some of its newsroom employees.

It cut 770 jobs at its Kaplan unit last year.

Washington Post shares were trading nearly flat at $387.55 in morning trade on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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