Washington Post Company CEO Donald Graham doesn’t do quarterly conference calls, so it is always interesting to hear him speak, as he did yesterday at the UBS Media Conference in New York. Graham again said short-term-focused investors shouldn’t buy his stock, but he believes in the long-term value of all of the company’s businesses – and that includes the media businesses.
“We’re absolutely committed to Detroit,” Graham insisted when asked what the company was doing to turn around WDIV-TV (Ch. 4, NBC) in the Motor City, a market that Graham had earlier called challenging. And he defended his reluctance to sell assets, saying that the company’s reputation for buying and holding is important when he goes out to acquire new businesses from the people who have built them. Graham acknowledged that TV had been disappointing in 2007, but he noted bright spots as well. He praised WPLG-TV (Ch. 10, ABC) Miami for becoming the market’s news ratings leader, for all stations, in a market where it is unusual of late for any English-language station to hold that title. Graham also noted “absolutely unbelievable performance” by independent WJXT-TV (Ch. 4) Jacksonville, FL.
With the big election year ahead, one questioner wanted to know whether new media outlets are going to be making big inroads into the political ad pie that has traditionally gone to TV. Graham said his TV managers had been talking with colleagues in early primary states and had seen no indication of any diversion of significant spending to new media. But Graham wouldn’t mind getting some political bucks for his own new media outlets. He noted that washingtonpost.com, newsweek.com and Slate all have highly political audiences and will be going after the campaigns for advertising. However, he noted, “candidates only have so much money.”