The Washington Post: 10-year plan
- The Washington Post (WP), like every other newspaper outlet in the U.S., is guilty of posting operating losses in the past decade. WP became a shadow of the former giant it was because of the inception of digital media and stiff competition from other D.C.-focused outlets including National Journal, Politico, and Roll Call, and thus, it reported 85 percent and 55 percent drop in its earnings and profits from operations respectively. Further decline was recorded in revenues, especially advertising revenue that fell 8 percent to $48.6 million in the first quarter of 2012. The decline in the WP’s subscribership and revenues can be attributed to several irrelevant decisions it has made in the past. To start with, WP has proven startlingly inept at delivering relevant and timely news to its readers, and this has caused readers to embrace online sources. Also, WP tends to cling to printing format, which from a distribution perspective is not trackable, customizable, or easily shareable. Therefore, WP has faced challenges associated with satisfaction and growth of its customer base.
- Strategic plans that are in place at the WP to reverse the negative trend include investing in journalism and technology, pursuing both large-scale and elite audiences, maintaining a focus on building the size of the digital audience, and understanding that consumers do not pay more for less.
- The current trends in consumer consumption patterns of news information indicate that consumption of news information is decreasing fast, especially regarding the print media. For the WP, the decrease in consumption patterns can be seen in the decrease in circulation (see fig. 1) This can be attributed to the fact that consumers are actively embracing digital media that is easily accessible, reliable, customizable, and relevant.
Fig. 1: Circulation declines for WP
- Amazon can play a key role in realizing WP’s objective of increasing its consumers. Amazon, through one of its digital resources known as Amazon Kindle, will allow more consumers to access and read WP online. An increase in the number of WP’s online consumers will attract advertisers who will use space in WP to advertise their products and services. With this strategy, an increase in WP’s digital revenue is guaranteed.
To create a balance between reporting quality and profitability, the WP should focus on providing updated, reliable, and relevant content that captures both national and international audiences in its print and digital platforms. This alongside the increase in digital revenue from advertisers will create a balance between reporting quality and profitability.
- Reports indicate that the consumer of today uses digital platforms to access news. This has been propagated by the advent and increased use of the Internet over the past decade. Until 2013 when Bezos purchased WP, most of its reporting and delivery of news content was through print platforms. With consumers of news preferring digital media over print media at the time, WP recorded massive losses because of a significant reduction in its consumers, and this prompted the shift from print to digital media upon its purchase by Bezos in 2013. WP joined other news sources such as the New York Times that had captured digital consumers and were recording significant profits. The shift from the print to digital media by consumers in the past decade happened because the print media lagged in the speed at which information was delivered. When major news breaks, consumers rush to the digital media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Since the move to the digital world, WP has been widely known for short and frequent updates that have attracted more consumers.
- With a significant decline in the number of print media consumers, WP should invest enormous efforts in building its digital audience. It should be available to the digital audience in the form of mobile apps and the website. Full engagement with social media platforms by having followers on Facebook and Twitter can help increase the WP’s online traffic as has been witnessed in recent years (see fig 2). Digital media can be monetized with advertising support. For instance, an increase in the number of viewers of the WP’s content in mobile applications and on the website, will attract advertisers, who will pay to have their services and products promoted to the viewers of WP’s content.
Fig. 2: Increase in WP’s online traffic
- The New York Times has well over 1300 staff members, which has helped in distribution and production to meet the needs of a large consumer base. The WP should borrow from them by increasing its personnel, which will implement its objective of having a national outlook. Already, the WP has increased its stuff, a move that has seen it close in on the New York times in recent years as can be seen in fig. 3 below.
Fig. 3: Closing the gap
- Amazon remains a significant player in the WP’s strategy. Amazon, one of the biggest online retailers worldwide, could provide a perfect platform for the WP’s magazine-like app, especially on mobiles and tablets. Through Amazon’s Kindle Fire, online users can get an access to the WP’s magazine-like app developed for mobiles and tablets.
- It is highly possible that 10 years from today, the WP will have captured more of the digital audience than the print media audience. This means that its content will be distributed and consumed through the digital media. The WP will also be sold to advertisers through online platforms such as its website and mobile and tablet apps.