The Kaplan test prep and financial aid recycling machine has been hit hard by new federal regulations that require for-profit colleges to provide actual educations, so Kaplan profits can no longer support the Washington Post, and there are more layoffs coming. The Post ombudsman gets to the heart of the problem:
But in looking at this buyout, I worry that The Post is moving away from local news and toward a publication that covers only national politics and government and the Redskins, one that relies too much on columnists.
In other words, why is Richard Cohen still pulling down a salary at the Post after layoffs have shrunk the newsroom from 1000 to 640?
The Times profile of the Post’s problems includes this not-very-encouraging passage:
Mr. Narisetti, who left the paper last month for a new job at The Wall Street Journal, where both he and Mr. Brauchli had worked before The Post, brought large flat-screen monitors into the newsroom that projected in real time what the most popular stories were online. He installed a new internal publishing system that required reporters to identify Google-friendly key words and flag them before their stories could be edited.
There are 35 different daily reports that track traffic to different parts of the Web site. Editors receive a midday performance alert, telling them whether the site is on track to meet its traffic goals for the day. If it appears that they might miss their goal, editors will order up fresher content.
The other day, Salon reported that they stopped “ordering up fresher content” by publishing fewer “link bait” stories that were just rewrites of other stories on the web, and instead focused on more original content. Their traffic is up 33%. It sounds like the Post is going in the opposite direction.
Another development the Post isn’t considering: the Guardian’s editor took a pay and pension cut.
The one smart thing that the Post has done lately is to let Ezra Klein expand his Wonkblog to add more high-quality analysis. Sarah Kliff in particular has done a good job recently with the Komen and birth control stories. Other than that, I don’t think we’ll be seeing much improvement at the Post anytime soon.