Since the merger of The Washington Post and The Washington Times-Herald on March 17, 1954 that established The Washington Post’s dominance in Washington metro area, The Washington Post has been an iconic news company in America. While it is well-known for its Pulitzer Prize for its work with the Pentagon Papers and the iconic Katharine Graham who was CEO in 1972, The Washington Post has undergone huge digital innovation in the last decade.
The first big change The Washington Post underwent was in January of 2010 with the merging of its two companies. Up until this time The Washington Post (the print newspaper) and The Washington Post Digital (washingtonpost.com) were two completely independent entities in two completely separate locations. The Washington Post was located (as it still is) in Washington D.C., while The Washington Post Digital was located in Arlington Virginia. This merger was pushed heavily by Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post because of the large rivalry between two opposing organizations within the same company. While Weymoth is quoted saying, “our customers—our readers, users, and advertisers—have always seen us as one organization,” the run of the mill employees saw the other company as competition for the important stories.
The merger was important not only to end this sense of rivalry and create on company but also to end the frequent miscommunications caused by being in two different locations. By January 1, 2010, The Washington Post had renovated the newsroom of its Washington DC location to join together both the digital and the print companies. When asked about the progress of the merger, Weymouth responded, “The motivation behind the integration is to become a more nimble company focused on disseminating news and information on multiple platforms.” This greater communication created an opportunity for The Washington Post to become more involved in the digital advancements.
Later in 2010, The Post began experimenting with new software platform that could handle articles, video, mobile apps, and analytics while allowing designer and producers to quickly create and edit templates. They brought together a group of engineers (some handpicked from within the paper, some brought in for the project) and asked them embed themselves into the newsroom so they could not only familiarize the problems of the current software management system, but also understand what the reporters and producers needed.
Three years later, in the spring of 2013, Post engineers were able to create a new management system called Pagebuilder, which allows the easy creation of page templates. Editors at the Post began quickly switching to this new system because of its simplicity and aesthetic. In one year makeovers were given to the recipes in the Style section, Post TV, and the paper’s video initiative. The new system was also now used to create new articles. Pagebuilder became so successful that The Post began testing the program with two college newspapers The Diamondback, at the University of Maryland, and The Daily Spectator, at Columbia University.
While The Washington Post was able to generate some digital enhancements during this time, it was not able to enhance as much as it wanted to because of its lack of revenue. The Washington Post was more focused on its print news than digital initiative. The print paper money off of ads, and since they were under a tight budget they were unable to put forth the effort they wanted too. After declines in revenue, buy outs, and huge job cuts, Don Graham decided to ended his family 80 year ownership of The Washington Post in 2013 and sold it to Jeff Bezos, owner and creator of Amazon. Graham was excited to sell the Post the Bezos because he believed he could take the paper forward digitally in a way he was unable to.
Bezos wanted to establish The Washington Post as a national paper. Because The Washington Post was mainly focused on print journalism and only sold print papers in the Washington D.C. metro area it was mostly a local paper. To establish as a national paper Bezos understood that he would have to change digital strategy. The first step Bezos made was to hire hundreds of new employees— journalists, editors, bloggers, technicians, etc. He wanted to be able to have a news coverage 24/7 because in the digital age news goes beyond just a nine to five workday.
Bezos’ next step was to join in partnership with six local papers across the United States offering print subscribers to The Dallas Morning News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and The Blade of Toledo, OH access to The Washington Post’s online exclusive material. It bundles local and national news back together. This allows the Post to get national reach with customers that normally would not look at their website.
The biggest step in digital strategy of The Washington Post is the new mobile initiative, which began early 2014. Designers, producers, and editors are looking more closely at how the news is looked at on different devices and fine tuning each mobile site to the users needs. One of the biggest slogans for the team is “mobile first.” They are working from the smallest screen up. It is a very fast paced project looking at the gifts each operating system offers to the news media and creating prototypes to best harness the uniqueness and create the best user interface as well as the best and easiest tools for editorial teams to quickly create articles, news memos, and blogs . The overall goal is to create platform specific adaptive journalism.
The most recent digital advancement released in October is the Android Wear app, which works with the new smart watches. This app can read you the news from all section of The Washington Post by playing it through your phone. The app also gives alerts for any breaking news.
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