Rebranding The Washington Times

The latest blow to aspiring area journalists dropped earlier this week with news that The Washington Times will cut its staff by 40 percent and pursue a different business model.

The development that I found most interesting has little to do with the online side of things-the fact that it's likely the entire sports department will be cut after a 60-day evaluation period. But as with any paper failing, there is definitely a new media side to the story.

In this New York Times' report on the situation, it's clear that the paper has battled issues for a while, but the lede makes an important point. John Solomon, the paper's former executive editor, joined the staff last year, one of his charges was to push the paper "into the digital age."

He left earlier this month, seemingly without accomplishing many of his intended goals for the paper, which seems likely to pursue a free model similar to the Washington Examiner that focuses heavily on politics and other local news reporting.

It's all summed up pretty well in this quote from an anonymous staffer:

"It’s pretty clear they can’t support it on this scale, and they’re trying to figure out what kind of product they can put out that’s economically viable and competitive with what’s available to them."
To me, that means it will have to really focus on new media, specifically its website. I think it will be especially important with the elimination of the sports section because studies have shown that many men pick up the paper primarily for sports news. The Washington Times will be alienating those potential readers, so they will have to be able to target market effectively to get the readership and sponsorships to allow them to continue.

Further more, here's The Washington Times' own write-up on the news, which includes excerpts from the official statement from acting publisher and president Jonathan Slevin.

Slevin offered this bit of comfort: "A new Washington Times will continue to reach readers and more effectively earn new audiences via digital, broadcast, print and wireless media."

That all amounts to a lot of changes from this local paper that has competed in the district since 1982. It's probably more bad news for people about to hit the job market like us, but maybe these kind of complete rebranding projects can offer new niches for people with fresh ideas to compete in tough markets.

With that in mind, what steps must this newspaper take to stay viable? Which facets of its media empire should be deemed most important? Based on some of the ideas we've discussed in class, how can new media help a struggling entity like The Washington Times to stay relevant as it becomes less traditional?


Alex said...

This type of significant staff cut reminds me how Gannett cut 26 newsroom jobs at USA Today and seven positions at USA Weekend. Four more USA Weekend staff members will be let go in March. The company did this even though its stock has risen. Here is the link to the Associated Press report: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jhMtfWtHgqks1O7hC0z8QjTQ5PigD9CARKVG0

Katie said...

I agree that the Times is alienating their audience. Sports and politics are probably the two selling points for any paper. If they became a politics only paper they'd still have a following, but it will hurt their circulation even more than it is now. Becoming an online paper might be their best best. The upside is that they'd get a jump start on being an online only media outlet.

modderno said...

Are they going to totally cut the sports section or cut their reporters and try to use content from the AP and other services? There are already papers that cover mostly politics so I don't see how focusing more on that can really help them. No one is going to switch from one politically focused paper to theirs because they offer less overall content now.