Love seeing these stories, and not just because it’s the New York Times praising The Washington Post.
When I first went to work at the Washington Post in Spring 2014, it wasn’t due to the state of the company at the time.
Despite extraordinary hard work and creativity the company situation, while not as dire as for nearly all others in the newspaper business, was grim.
Politico was still crowing about its handful of great years. People still saw Vox as fresh and innovative. WaPo, founded the same year that Thomas Edison demonstrated his first phonograph, was beaten down.
I think web traffic was about 30-ish million monthly unique visitors give-or-take. I remember a colleague expressing worry over a digital ad sales goal a little less than the mid-eight-digits.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had owned the company for about six months, though there wasn’t much evidence of that beyond a bumper crop of new blogs, along with an uptick in newsroom and tech hiring.
I liked and respected my future bosses, revered the editor and had complete confidence in my editorial partner.
Beyond that, it was a bet on the company’s potential.
Because of the reputations of my prior workplaces, I became a prop. During my early days, I engaged in a lot of recruiting activities beyond the tiny business I ran inside the company. I recommended other media professionals for jobs, tried to cajole them into joining, tried to convince them it was safe, sat in on customer meetings to help sell products other than mine.
Sometimes, I found myself defending my decision to friends, as I had when I left a great job at Fortune to join Bloomberg.
It was surreal to be vouching for The Washington Post.
The next two years were a blur of change sometimes small, sometimes huge. The business side of the company was beginning to build a story to match the 69 Pulitzers, dogged reporting and regular scoops that marked the newsroom. The teams in those parts of the company were developing some swagger.
Every Tuesday I was up at 4 am to don a suit and catch a 6 am train for DC. On Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the week, I’d get home at 9 or 10 pm, sleep a few hours, then throw on jeans to head to my West Village WaPo office, where a few dozen people occupied the back half of
a floor with former sister company, Slate in the front.
When I left a year ago, I was exhausted and grumpy but grateful for an amazing two years.
The couple of us Manhattan carpetbaggers who joined at that time are doing other things now. The team is now larger and populated by a phenomenal group of professionals. The NYC office is probably about 50 or so people.
These days, I see articles like the below and marvel:
– Traffic consistently pushing the 100MM mark
– Digital revenue comfortably in the nine digits
– Top-notch branded content work
– Events every few weeks with a who’s who of Washington
– The company’s tech products becoming a meaningful revenue stream
– Video crushing it on quality, quantity and views
– Paid subscriptions booming
– A newsroom that has only gotten better, even off a greatest-of-all-time base.
It’s a coveted place to work.
Sure, there are still lots of challenges ahead, particularly as print accelerates its decline across the media sector.
Still, it all makes me snicker. There might be a newsroom battle between WaPo and NYT, but when it come to momentum as a media business, it isn’t even close.
And I’m proud to have had a front row seat for a little while.