Is The Washington Post in full-scale collapse? A recent look at the numbers provides a fairly convincing answer to that question.

According to the report, not only is the Post losing $100 million a year, but it lost over half of its online engagement by the end of 2023. The signs were already there by mid-year, and the worst has come to pass.

This is from Bonchie, “The Washington Post Is in Full-Scale Collapse,” RedState, January 5, 2024.

Bonchie goes on to write:

Having a billionaire sugar daddy [Jeff Bezos] has helped mask some of the issues plaguing the Post, but the tide can only be held back so long. To lose over 50 percent of its online viewership is catastrophic for an outlet with such high overhead costs. Subscriber numbers have also nosedived throughout the Biden administration.

I’m reminded of my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies, Citizen Kane. I actually found a source decades ago, way before the web, that had the dialogue printed out and it was on my cork board at work for decades. It’s a beautiful exercise in numeracy.

Here’s the dialogue:

Walter Parks Thatcher (Charles Kane’s legal guardian): Don’t you think it’s rather unwise to continue this philanthropic enterprise, this Inquirer that’s costing you a million dollars a year?

Charles Foster Kane: You’re right, Mr. Thatcher. I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in [pause] 60 years.

Let’s say that Bezos’s losses rise to $200 million a year and stay there. His net worth in 2022 was $167 billion. So if he makes only a 1% return on his assets, that’s $1.67 billion a year. At that rate, he’ll have to close the Washington Post in– never.

There’s one other big difference besides the fact that for Bezos it’s rounding error and for Citizen Kane it wasn’t. I think I can figure out from the movie what Citizen Kane’s motivation was for running the Inquirer the way he did. I’ve never had a clue about what Jeff Bezos’s motivation is in owning the Washington Post.