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The Washington Post’s New Look

February 12, 2012

A Newspaper, and a Legacy, Reordered

These are stories I would love to see written more often.  In an age where convergence is the new buzzword, newspapers and their staffs need examples to look at.  Journalism needs successful blueprints of papers marrying their print and online publications.  Not to say that The Washington Post’s new model is a complete success because the article says they are still losing staff, but it sounds like they are heading in the right direction.

The Post’s management made the vital decision to have an online presence and then made the equally important decision of monitoring that presence.  All of the effort needed to create and maintain an online publication is wasted if companies don’t take the time to look for improvement.  Using web metrics to generate traffic is essential and it sounds like The Post took the initiative there.  They made website traffic a priority and shaped their content around their traffic quota.  That’s huge.  Some of the things that can hinder an online publications are poor design and functionality, but stale content is by far the worst.

I also found it interesting that up until a certain point the print staff and the online staff worked in separate locations.  Cooperation between print and web editions is no different than the cooperation between writers, photographers and design people for layouts.  It’s a must.  Both sides need to communicate what’s working and what’s not, and should be collaborating on stories by approaching them from different angles to give each edition a sense of uniqueness.

While it might not always be feasible for smaller papers to maintain a professional level website and track its performance with advanced web metrics, it’s certainly possible to bring someone in to examine what a publication is doing wrong.  Just get the opinion of someone who knows how the Internet thinks that can offer suggestions for improvement.  Not every publication needs to change its culture the way The Post did, but every publication should definitely look for ways to tap into the online market.  I hate the idea of comments, hash tags and search engines like many other reporters, but at this point it’s adapt or die for journalism.  Convergence is the only option.


From → Responses

One Comment
  1. Unfortunately, when you’re talking about smaller papers, it’s less a matter of education (although, that’s a huge issue) and more a matter of motivation. There’s little incentive to put any focus on the web product, unless it’s helping to pay the bills. At the smaller papers, web isn’t paying many bills, so the content/design/etc. suffers. If the content/design/etc. was better, perhaps it could pay more bills. It’s the chicken and egg situation all over.

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