When the Washington Post announced last year that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had purchased the paper for $250 million, it was met with a degree of optimism in the media sphere. If anyone could reboot a legacy news publication, it’s the ruthlessly innovative Bezos. But while reading this Digiday list of 10 ways the Post has changed under Bezos’s leadership, I was struck by how cosmetic most of the moves have been. It’s begun to expand the newsroom — bringing in 50 new editorial staffers — and its digital traffic is growing, but then again most news sites’ digital traffic is growing as more of the world gains smart phones and access to the internet.
It may be too soon to pass judgement, however, since several of the items that show the most promise are for projects that aren’t yet completed. The Post has expanded its computer engineering team, for instance, is building a new commenting platform, and is in the process of a major redesign.
The paper announced a website redesign, but it’s a long way from being completed. Chief among the goals is improving the article experience; article pages are cleaner, and photo galleries have better resolution and sharing features. But article pages are still marred by Google AdChoices and take too long to load — four to five seconds to load — which the Post wants to cut to two to three seconds. “Speed is something we need to get better at,” Prakash said. “We’ve made progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Explaining his decision to leave the Post for Vox Media, Klein criticized the paper as lagging in technology and for being tied to a daily-journalism publishing model. Here again, the Post is just getting started. Its new blog Storyline allows for storytelling in different formats and to be told over days and months. A new CMS that will build in analytics to inform and guide news staffers as they post content is still in the works. And the holy grail of being able to personalize content to readers based on their point of entry and interests is still a ways off — as it is for most publishers.