The Washington Post Company’s newspaper division has lost money in 13 of the last 15 quarters. Total loss over that period: $412m. The latest quarterly figures reveal a $23m loss and a 7% drop in revenue. Indeed, revenue has now slithered down in 20 of the last 22 quarterly returns. Last year’s annual figures show it at $314m, a third less than in 2006. Print advertising has shrivelled by 53% in that period. As for digital ad revenue, and supposed salvation, that’s down too – by 8% in the new returns. Amazingly, it too has slipped back over the past five years.
Peter Preston, The Guardian. Washington Post’s sad decline raises tricky questions in US.
See also, Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review. The Washington Post Co.’s Self-Destructive Course.
News consumption is growing more mobile, but with the number of smartphone and tablet users on the rise, it might make sense for newsrooms to abandon text alerts — which can cost money for both sender and receiver — and shift to push notifications and that old standby, email.
The exact details of the buyout, technically a voluntary Separation Incentive Program, will come later.
Memo to Washington Post staff that the newspaper plans to lay off — err, offer a Separation Incentive Program to —
200 20* people. Via the New York Times.
*Correction: WaPo is cutting 20 positions.
“I can say from personal experience that when I have gone into threads to explain how our comments work or help users with questions/issues they might have, the tone changes simply because the user realizes someone from The Post is listening.”
- Jon DeNunzio, The Washington Post’s Interactivity editor
Here’s the solution: spin it off. Slate doesn’t deserve to be slowly whittled away to the bone, or to be publishing link-bait, traffic-gaming pieces, no matter how witty the conceit. Slate is an established, valuable brand, with a lot of smart people (still) working on the editorial side. But the business side of Slate has not kept pace with the desires or the needs of the editorial team. Both sides are stifling each other — Slate’s bookkeepers demand budget cuts that lead to staff reductions, and Slate’s editors are under the gun to deliver a more valuable product with less resources. Weisberg may be Chairman of the (dwindling) Slate group, but what Slate needs is a CEO, someone who can lead a spinoff, attract venture capital, talent in the engineering, sales and business staffs with the prospects of equity and a clean, er, slate, with which to reinvent the modern online magazine.
The Washington Post may not love the idea of selling out — Slate was supposed to be a feather in their cap, and an incubator of ideas and talent, but like Microsoft before them, the Post should accept that they didn’t manage the acquisition well, and be willing to divest it. They could try to sell Slate to another company, as they did with Newsweek, but that makes little sense — Slate was conceived without the extraneous baggage and overhead of a print publication. Physically, it’s little more than office leases and web servers.
Paul Smalera, How to reboot Slate
I concur. Which probably means it won’t happen, and Slate will instead die the death of a thousand cuts.
FJP: Smalera writes that Slate should act like a nimble startup. Question though: after 15 years of being relatively cocooned by first Microsoft and then the Washington Post, could they?
Or is Slate DNA pretty much fixed at this point in time?
Jose Antonio Vargas did approach us with this idea some time ago, and I worked with him on the story for some weeks, with the intention of running it in Outlook. In the end, a decision was made here to pass on it. I’m delighted that the author found such a great home for the piece in the Sunday Magazine at The Times — certainly a fine second choice after The Washington Post Outlook section.
Message from Carlos Lozada, the editor of The Washington Post’s “Outlook” section to Chris Suellentrop, Story Editor, The New York Times Magazine, regarding the publication of Pulitzer-Winner Jose Antonio Vargas’ coming out story as an illegal immigrant in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
Chris Seullentrap, New York Times, My (Legal) Editor’s Dream.
I think there’s too much emphasis on speed and feeding the impatience people have. … In many ways, journalism is not often enough up to the task of dealing with the dangerous and fragile nature of the world, or the community, or anything you might try to understand. [The world requires] high quality, probing journalism. And there’s just not been enough of it.
Bob Woodward, the Long-time Washington Post reporter (and journalism legend), speaking at Sciences Po in Paris about what he perceives as a “journalism bubble.” Although Woodward thinks that focusing on the profitability of news organizations will lead to more robust and independent coverages, free from the swaying influence of donors and their subsidies, linking journalist’s pay to site performance is extremely detrimental.
Why try explaining what’s really going on at the Fukushima nuclear plant, or digging through the arcana of E.U. policy (even though it shapes the life of 450m people) if, two desks away, your colleague will make more money by recycling celeb gossip?