NY Times: Washington Post on track to lose money this year

Source: Hot Air

The NY Times is reporting today that the Washington Post is not doing well financially. The paper had a boom after it was purchased by Jeff Bezos in 2013 but those days are apparently over. The Post is on track to lose money this year for the first time in many years. And one of the reasons cited for that downturn is the decline in news about a central figure of importance to Post readers.

As the breakneck news pace of the Trump administration faded away, readers have turned elsewhere, and the paper’s push to expand beyond Beltway coverage hasn’t compensated for the loss.

The organization is on track to lose money in 2022, after years of profitability, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s finances. The Post now has fewer than the three million paying digital subscribers that it had hailed internally near the end of 2020, according to several people at the organization…

Many news outlets, in addition to The Post, have experienced declining readership since former President Donald J. Trump left office.

Trump may have left office but there has barely been a day since when his name wasn’t in the news for some reason or another. And the Times also points out that while the Post has struggled both the Times and the Wall Street Journal have gained subscribers since Trump left office. So the post-Trump slump isn’t inevitable but the Post hasn’t managed to avoid it. The Times story offers several possible reasons why this is so.

The downturn at The Post has set off frustration internally. Some top executives are concerned that Mr. Ryan, picked by Mr. Bezos to be the publication’s top business executive, hasn’t moved decisively enough to expand coverage. Some have also become irritated by the company’s halting marketing efforts, which are guided by Mr. Ryan, and inconclusive talks about acquiring another large news organization.

Mr. Ryan’s focus on productivity and office attendance in the newsroom has also been a source of tension. He has expressed his belief to members of his leadership team that there were numerous low performers in the newsroom who needed to be managed out. He has monitored how many staff members come into the office, and has weighed new measures to compel people to return to work, including threats of firings, according to several people at The Post…

“There’s no question that we need to diversify what people come to us for,” Ms. Buzbee said in an interview. “That’s our whole strategy.”

I don’t think the problem with the Post has to do with decisions about acquiring another company or Mr. Ryan’s focus on people showing up at work. Those are all side issues. I do think Sally Buzbee is on to something in her quest to diversify what the Post is about.

I’m one of the Post’s remaining subscribers and honestly, I don’t enjoy the paper very much. I pretty much keep my subscription there solely so I can have access to breaking stories for my job here. To put it bluntly, if the Post is trying to diversify its readership it has failed in my view.

I look at the site every day and what I frequently see is something by either Greg Sargent or Jennifer Rubin or Max Boot or EJ Dionne are among the most read stories on the site. (The most read story as I write this is this one by Greg Sargent.) These partisans have spent the last several years delivering juicy screeds about Donald Trump and the failure and mendacity of the Republican Party often twice a day. Not surprisingly, if you dip a toe into the comments at the Post you’ll inevitably find it’s full of left-wing edge lords doing their best to beat down any contrary views and offer their own rants about whatever topic is at hand. What I don’t see at the Post, ever, is actual discussion or thoughtful responses which acknowledge there is more to the story than a few talking points heard on Twitter or MSNBC.

My impression of the Post’s readership is that it’s extremely one-sided and eager to keep it that way. There are a few writers on the opinion side and the news side who offer a different perspective (Erik Wemple, Henry Olsen, etc.) but they always seem to me to be adrift in a sea of resistance journalism.

For comparison purposes, the NY Times has its own collection of very left-wing opinion writers (Krugman, Bouie, Goldberg, etc.) but they don’t seem to dominate the space in quite the same way. Again, you can see the difference immediately by dipping into the comments. There’s still lots of glowing appraisals of whatever progressive notion Bouie is advancing on a given day, but you also occasionally see a significant number of readers telling Goldberg (for instance) that she’s wrong about something or that she missed the point. There’s definitely still a lot of partisan enthusiasm in the comments at the Times and I’d still say about 75% or more of the commenters are on the left, but that’s a lot more balanced than the Post. Perhaps because of that mix of readers, people seem more nuanced and make actual attempts to persuade people rather than just looking for the edgiest insult.

And the Times has sections of the paper that are at least slightly insulated from the ideological demands of the left-wing. I don’t usually read their Wirecutter vertical, which is fully of stories like this one on the best carry-on luggage, but the point is the paper is publishing things every day that seem meant for normal people who aren’t maniacally obsessed with partisan politics. The Times is offering content for adults who are doing things besides reading the paper.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has become the goth teen of national newspapers, focused on the looming death of democracy in existential darkness. There was definitely a market for that kind of doom-laden, mascara-heavy-journalism for a few years, but I think a lot of readers have grown out of that phase (as most goths eventually do). So I’m actually glad to see the Post is struggling. That’s not because I want to see a lot of people out of work, but because I don’t think the Post is a very good paper in some ways. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Sally Buzbee seems to have at least an inkling of the problem. Maybe she’ll be able to turn the place around.