It might be said this company can teach you something about newspapers. Best known as the publisher of The Washington Post newspaper, The Washington Post Company actually gets the lion's share of its revenue from Kaplan, a well-known source of test preparation materials. Washington Post's flagship newspaper, meanwhile, boasts a circulation of about 525,000 in the Washington, DC, area. Other media operations include a portfolio of six TV stations and online publishing operations such as Slate. Washington Post also owns cable TV systems operator Cable One. The company is controlled by chairman Donald Graham and his family.
Like other newspaper and magazine publishers, Washington Post struggles to manage the long, slow decline of print publications. Its saving grace, though, is its Kaplan education and Cable One units, which help keep the rest of the business afloat. Kaplan is best known for its test preparation materials, but it also runs a popular online university that boasts about 50,000 students. Cable One, meanwhile, is focused on rolling out additional voice and data services to its subscribers. Together, the two operations account for about three-fourths of Washington Post's sales.
In other attempts to diversify its revenue streams and focus on a long-term investment, in 2012 Washington Post switched gears away from media and education when it agreed to acquire a majority stake in Celtic Healthcare. A provider of home healthcare and hospice services, Celtic has 9 locations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The purchase is part of the company's ongoing strategy of investing in companies with demonstrated earnings potential.
The company sold Everett, Washington-based The Herald in early 2013, as well as La Raza and other print and online products to Sound Publishing, a Washington state-based subsidiary of Black Press, for an undisclosed amount.
Prior to that, the company sold Newsweek in 2010 for just $1, plus about $47 million in financial liabilities to Sidney Harmon, founder of audio equipment maker Harman International Industries. The weekly news magazine had suffered from growing competition along with declining circulation and advertising revenues. Harmon in 2011 merged the magazine publisher with current events website the Daily Beast to form The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, has taken aggressive steps to mitigate the steep declines in revenue through staff reductions and by closing its news bureaus outside Washington, DC, and shuttering a printing plant in Maryland. Also focused on boosting readership online, the Post integrated its print and digital media operations early in 2010.
Chairman Donald Graham is the son of the late Katharine Graham, who had taken over the business after her husband died in the early 1960s and became a legend in the publishing business. She led the Post in its decisions to publish the Pentagon papers and pursue the Watergate story.
Investment icon Warren Buffett owns almost 20% of the company through Berkshire Hathaway.