The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, has fixed Washington Post which was largely struggling before he bought it. Now, the company is profitable for a second year in a row, and digital subscriptions more than tripled from last year. That digital subscription growth is impressive because the narrative has been that people would not pay for non-financial content. So, you expect Wall Street Journal and Financial Times to do well since financial news is a business tool and people would pay. Others like WashPost may not be lucky. But in this letter to staff, WashPost publisher presents compelling evidence that even in the era of Facebook and Google, a newspaper could build a content-platform people would pay.
Notice that WashPost is now selling IT solutions to other news organization. That was the same strategy Bezos used in Amazon where Amazon Cloud was originally designed and created for Amazon ecommerce business. But over time, he made it available for anyone with credit card.
The partnership between news and technology is powering our growth and, through Arc, our engineers are now delivering technology solutions to a growing list of leading national and international publications.
Arc is now a new business within Washington Post. Expect it to impose taxes to news organizations that would depend on it. As that happens, it would have more incentives to deepen the capabilities, growing unbounded. Then in 5-7 years, every major news organizations in the world would be paying taxes to Washington Post, just as most websites pay taxes to Amazon Web Services. As you read this content, on Tekedia, we are sending money to Amazon where the site is hosted. No wonder, the man is worth excess of $105 billion. He is peerless and builds products that anchor its best products. For WashPost, the best product, and the oasis, is washingtonpost.com; products like Arc are created to make it industry best.
In this age of knowledge economy, phrases like ‘our core business area’,’our area of specialty’ have been relegated to the background and are now moribund. Business intelligence is now redefined and deepened, with a constant evolution and great awareness to environment, trends and anticipated future. You must now deepen capability across my areas in order to remain relevant, just for the meantime, and continuously innovate to even stand any chance in the future.
Just take look: “Whether we are telling stories with text, video, audio, graphics, or the latest immersive technologies” and this, “The Washington Post can be the world’s only “140-year-old start-up.” What else can you call it?
Full memo from Publisher Fred Ryan to staff below.
Dear Washington Post colleagues,
As we prepare to enjoy time with our families and friends over the holidays, I’d like to thank everyone on The Washington Post team for your contributions to what has been a truly exceptional year.
In my view, Washington Post journalism has never been better. Our investigative, national security and political teams have broken many of this year’s top stories, with revelations about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, key disclosures in the Russia investigation, and an examination of regulatory changes that exacerbated America’s opioid crisis. With thorough and meticulously sourced reporting, our politics team has consistently given readers an inside look at policy clashes and personality conflicts at the White House and in other corridors of power. In-depth, elegantly written narrative projects have come from every corner of the newsroom even as our journalists have responded with impressive speed to breaking stories in today’s non-stop news environment.
The Washington Post newsroom has been a laboratory for innovation, capitalizing on the latest advances in storytelling tools. It also has launched an array of new products, ranging from the Today’s WorldView newsletter aimed at an international audience to additional “202” newsletters that are building on the highly successful Daily 202 franchise.
Broadening the reach of Washington Post reporting, our journalists have appeared frequently on many broadcast and cable news programs, with an average of more than 800 appearances each month. Washington Post LIVE is convening newsmakers and thought leaders for conversations on critical issues of the day.
Our Editorial and Opinions team has expanded the number and range of voices, adding thoughtful perspective and unique context on issues at the heart of today’s especially vibrant public conversation.
Your exceptional work has been recognized with the highest awards in journalism, advertising and technology — from Polk awards to a Pulitzer and WAN-IFRA prizes to the National Press Foundation’s “Feddies.” But, more importantly, news consumers have demonstrated their appreciation evidenced by rapid growth in page views, video starts and other important metrics of reader engagement. This progress is encouraging as we continue to pursue our goal of serving more readers across the country and around the world.
In 2017, readers responded to superb Washington Post journalism by subscribing in record numbers, with digital subscriptions more than doubling since January and more than tripling since last year.
Our advertising team has exceeded its targets and all previous records. Digital advertising contributed a far greater share of overall revenue than ever. These gains, coupled with a surge in subscription revenue, position us for continued profitability and increased investment.
The exceptional team that prepares, produces and delivers our print product continues to innovate and develop additional revenue streams. We now print nearly every major publication in the Washington region.
Through Apple News, Snapchat and other new initiatives, Washington Post journalism is reaching more people, across many more devices and platforms, than ever before. Whether we are telling stories with text, video, audio, graphics, or the latest immersive technologies, we are committed to providing a superior Washington Post experience on all platforms and devices in use today and those yet to be invented.
The partnership between news and technology is powering our growth and, through Arc, our engineers are now delivering technology solutions to a growing list of leading national and international publications. In addition toWashingtonPost.com, Arc now provides technology for more than 50 other websites. Our technology team continues to push the boundaries of engineering, pioneering in areas like artificial intelligence and serverless computing.
As the newsroom grows to more than 800 journalists, and as we add to our technology and business teams, we will be acquiring additional space in our headquarters building in 2018. This expansion will meet our needs in the coming year and accommodate anticipated growth in the future.
Despite the many accomplishments of 2017, we must remain mindful that the modern media world changes rapidly and poses constant challenges. We cannot rest on this year’s success, but instead must build on it by relentlessly innovating, experimenting and disrupting even our own practices. With continued hard work and our naturally scrappy spirit, we can feel confident about moving forward in our aspiration of serving a broader national and global audience.
As mentioned in our Town Hall, this month marked the 140th birthday of The Washington Post. With our rich legacy and a forward-looking team committed to innovation and experimentation, in 2018, The Washington Post can be the world’s only “140-year-old start-up.”
Warmest wishes to you and your families for the holidays,