It was mid-morning last Friday in the newsroom of the Washington Post. By all accounts, it was a regular news day for the leading news organization in the capital of one of the most important cities in the world.
Laura Phillips, President of Vehr Communications, and I were there as part of an insider’s tour for fifty professional communicators attending the annual IPREX Global Management Conference (see more about IPREX below).
Here are just a few insights from this fascinating visit:
- There is no question that the Post knows it is competing everyday for volume … real people reading their publications whether in print or online. And, according to the presenters, volume is growing, which is reinforced by this September 2018 article in Forbes.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the news organization in 2013. We were told they had 500 journalists in 2015 and four software engineers supporting the news side of the business. Today, the headcount is 900 journalists and 300 software engineers fully integrated into the newsgathering and distribution efforts.
- They are unambiguous about their target customer: influencers and policymakers in the Nation’s capital. They identify online readers by their IP addresses and know exactly when and what each .gov online reader is reading. As one Post staffer said, “If the chair of a Senate Committee reads us online, so does his staff, his Committee staff, the lobbyists who monitor the Committee’s work and so on.”
- The Post’s VP of Technology spoke with intensity and clear focus about what they measure and how they react and respond to real-time data to increase circulation. When we walked through the newsroom, and walked past what they called the “News hub,” we could see the constantly refreshing monitors reflecting real-time traffic on their online news outlets. We were also asked not to take any pictures on this part of the tour.
- Ashley Parker, one of their White House reporters, shared insights from her coverage of President Trump in the White House and on the campaign trail. Speaking with the objectivity of a journalist, she glibly shared that, yes, Trump was unconventional and a breaker of norms. She also shared that, “Every story is about Trump.”
In short, it was clear from the first minute we entered the newsroom that it is “game on” for the Post in an incredibly competitive media environment. With Bezos as owner, and talented and diverse staff and journalists, you could feel a sense of urgency and competition along with the history and importance of its mission.
In reflecting on why he purchased it, Jeff Bezos said, according to Forbes, “It is the newspaper in the capital city of the most important country in the world. The Washington Post has an incredibly important role to play in this democracy. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
Regardless of what you feel about the coverage of the Washington Post, and whether you think they report with a bias, their publisher reinforced the proud history of this storied institution and it’s nearly 60 Pulitzer prizes. For our group of communicators to visit the Post, it was quite an experience.
What is IPREX: Vehr Communications is a leading member of IPREX, a global communication platform with more than 1,800 professionals operating in over 100 cities around the world. IPREX brings each its members the leadership, expertise and in-market awareness and understanding of seasoned communications leaders from virtually every market in the world. I am a former global board member and past President of the Americas region. Laura Phillips, President of Vehr, currently serves on the IPREX global board of directors.