When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post just
more than a year ago, expectations of a digital renaissance for the
paper became assumptions. What would one of the most visionary business
minds of the Internet age do with something as stodgy and inflexible as a
The answer, it turns out, is far less exciting than some had hoped.
There have been no grand redesigns or big-name hires — one of its
stars, Ezra Klein, left the paper to start Vox.com. There have been no
plans to immediately end the print edition. Instead, during a recent
visit to WPNYC in a nondescript office on the west side of Manhattan,
the Post gave a look at a relatively unsexy piece of internal software with the distinctly prosaic name PageBuilder.
Digitally, the Post is competitive. Its August monthly
unique visitors are up more than 50% compared to the same time last year
to just under 40 million, according to comScore. That beats out rivals
like The Los Angeles Times (27.3 million) and the paywalled Wall Street Journal (22.9 million), while gaining on The New York Times (49.9 million).
The growth is encouraging, but the Post is still suffering from the same fate as every other newspaper. Prakash claimed that the company brought in record digital revenue
last year, but that has not been able to keep up with print declines.
The paper's most recent public earnings report since Bezos bought it, in
August 2013, showed an overall dip in revenue and continued losses.
...Innovation has mostly come in the way of new blogs and a breaking news
team. Software developers are now embedded within the newsroom to
connect the tech and editorial sides. That system has yielded a custom storytelling tool, a new blog focused on photography and The Most, which organizes the top stories online by media outlet.
...Dan Gillmor, a professor at the Arizona State University School of
Journalism and Mass Communication, said that the newspaper model is not
fixable. Media companies that survive will need to change into something
almost entirely different....