Exit stage right

You know that I’m fueled creatively by my massive hatred of the Washington Post. I hate it because they’ve gotten a lot of things right — their web site is much better than the NYT’s and even includes an excellent mobile site (I have a digital subscription to the Times and I still find the mobile app unusable), for example — but the right-wing editorial page, Very Seriousness, and general desire to suck up to wingers ruins what what would otherwise be the second best paper in the country. Looks like I’m not the only person who feels this way:

The Washington Post had the worst total circulation performance among all 25 papers included in the report for both Monday-Friday and Sunday, registering a 7.84% decline in total average circulation for Monday-Friday over the same period last year, and a 15.66% decline for Sunday. Print circulation for Monday-Friday was 467,450 and 688,576 for Sunday. Digital circulation was 40,165 for Monday-Friday and 30,725 for Sunday.

By contrast, the Times was down only 4.5% Mon-Fri and 1.1% on Sundays, nowhere near as steep a drop. I have to think that, in terms of circulation, it’s not a great idea for a paper with mostly left-leaning readership (even though dead-tree subscribers skew old, I’m sure that subscribers to the Post and Times are mostly liberals) to transform itself into a conservative outlet, as the Post increasingly has.

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57 replies
  1. 1
    Patricia Kayden says:

    I still subscribe to the Washington Post and skip over the rightwing columnists like George Will. Works for me.

  2. 2
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    If there web site is much better than the NYT’s, I shudder to think how bad the latter must be.

    The Kaplan Daily’s website has been a running joke for years: buggy as hell for the life of whatever version it happens to be in. Once they get the bugs worked out, they totally revamp the site and it’s deja vu all over again.

    The info flow is klugey and longtime readers like me have bitched for the better part of the last dozen years and they still don’t get it. As part of cost cutting, they’ve cut down on the number of site designers and code monkeys and it shows every day.

    When I was back there in January, the dead tree version was just sad: so small. The ironic thing is no died-in-the-wool Washington wingnut would be caught dead reading the (com)Post, even tho their management has tried desperately to make the paper “more local”. As such, their more politically rightward tilt (because of the shrieking calls they get from aforementioned wingnuts about all the librul bias in the paper) will gain them nothing.

    There was a massive article recently on the paper about this and other things that have beaten down the paper. I thought it was in the New Yorker or Atlantic or some publication like that. Can I find it *now*? Noooooooooooo.

  3. 3
    ShadeTail says:

    Mr. Head of Infidelity, you need to close the parenthesis in your first paragraph.

  4. 4
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    Found it:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/busi.....-watergate

  5. 5
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    The New Republic did a piece a couple of years back that when read with the VF piece provide a pretty succinct overview of the suckage that is the Kaplan Daily Digest:

    http://www.tnr.com/article/pol.....apocalypse

  6. 6
    DougJ, Head of Infidelity says:

    @ShadeTail:

    Thanks.

  7. 7

    I have absolutely no use for either the NYT’s or Wapo, with the singular exception of several very fine national security investigative journalists like Dana Priest, James Risen, and a few others.

    All the rest of both of those rags have completely sold out to getting and keeping this or that like minded groups on politics, with regular feedings of red meat to keep them coming back. With A lot of that red meat being rotten, and getting more so all the time. Maybe they need to do this to survive in today’s hypercompetitive news markets, but bullshit is bullshit, no matter the reason or rationale.

  8. 8
    Brachiator says:

    By contrast, the Times was down only 4.5% Mon-Fri and 1.1% on Sundays, nowhere near as steep a drop. I have to think that, in terms of circulation, it’s not a great idea for a paper with mostly left-leaning readership (even though dead-tree subscribers skew old, I’m sure that subscribers to the Post and Times are mostly liberals) to transform itself into a conservative outlet, as the Post increasingly has.

    it’s not just about who reads the paper, but about those who are willing to pay for the paper. Also, readership counts, especially to advertisers. Old, young, liberal or conservative, is not as important as who reacts to ads and spends money.

    And here, new media doesn’t rule. It’s about devices and platforms. Media companies need to stop worrying about walled gardens or even dedicated apps and find ways to get stories and advertisers to mobile devices and tablets, to streaming services, and onto Facebook and Twitter and wherever the eyes are. Amazon is a good commerce model for this.

    What WaPo does about their shitty content is a whole other problem.

  9. 9
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    The goddamned infuriating thing is that they continue to pander and beg and scrape at the feet of folks who, no matter how much they cater to them, will always consider the paper the epitome of Godless Commie Super-Liberal rags and will twist and contort to make whatever the WaPo says to be the absolute left of the spectrum to justify that claim.

    And yet, the comment section too is about 90% screaming frothing “NOBAMA!!!!!” wingnuts, save perhaps Sargent’s blog (at least of the ones that actually get comment traffic at all). Even Ezra Klein’s blog is pretty much an echo chamber of “FUCK OBAMA GET THE FUCKER OUT NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!” in the comments.

  10. 10
    handsmile says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage: (#5)

    Was preparing to post the link to the TNR piece that I assumed you had been referring to in your comment #2. I wasn’t aware of the Vanity Fair article, so appreciate that link.

    There is no other newspaper whose demise I await more eagerly than Kaplan Test Prep Daily. Those current employees who are worthy of the paper’s once vaunted reputation, Dana Priest, Harold Meyerson, Ezra Klein, and Greg Sargent, I expect will have no difficulty hanging their shingle elsewhere. The Wingnut Welfare Federation will happily take care of the rest.

  11. 11
    Another Halocene Human says:

    WaPoo.

    It’s the management. Bush has been gone for a while, discredited even longer. It’s not 2002 any more.

    If I had to hazard a guess (remembering the fat Metro sections of yore), part of the advertising problem may be that the Post is a firmly suburban paper and “the demo” (the young, upwardly mobile adults who are courted by national brands) have in less than ten years rapidly shifted to living in the city. The Blade and the City Paper are still around, right? (Although papers like the Blade are probably in big trouble too as the ghetto walls come down. The Blade used to be a great paper and also an important one, reporting on stories the MSM wouldn’t touch.)

  12. 12
    Jay C says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    If there web site is much better than the NYT’s, I shudder to think how bad the latter must be.

    Pretty bad – the regular NYT site is OK – though even with a subscription, you trip against the occasional site-wall – but the mobile app is disgracefully simplified: it has about 10% (if that) of the paper’s content, and what is there is poorly arranged.

  13. 13
    RalfW says:

    The Star Tribune tried this in Minneapolis to disastrous results. They thought they could actually add suburban subscribers if they veered right. HaHaHaHa.

    Of course the moderates and liberals cancelled in droves, and the wingers still think the Strib is Pravda.

    As the partner of a former newsroomer at the Strib, I can tell ya, the people up top (here at least, can’t say for the Post) were panicked idiots who make Dick Cheney look thoughtful. The worst period was the leveraged buyout era.

    So many bad choices. So much that would read like a biz school case study in bad managerial decision making.

    The new publisher seems to actually like newspapers and they seem to have stabilized, though I personally use it less and less as their non-subscriber policy tightens down the page views.

  14. 14
    cosima says:

    I canceled my subscription to the Denver Post because of the same issue last month. They “let go” two of their liberal columnists, and retained the complete line-up of right-wing arseholes. Most of the letters to the editors were from wingnuts.

    Here’s the deal: Denver is fabulous & diverse, and definitely left-leaning, if not outright left. You have to leave Denver, get out to some crazy suburbs, to find the primarily wingnuttia areas. So WTF Denver Post? Don’t even have the balls to print Doonesbury anymore?

    You cater to the wingnuts, you don’t get my socialist dollars. It’s that simple. Let the socialists pay properly for their right-of-center paper by subscribing and advertising in it. Big middle finger up at all of the papers who are trending that way — and I suspect it’s most of them.

  15. 15
    Bort says:

    I’ve stopped watching/reading most of the American news. I subscribe to the Guardian on my Kindle, watch Al Jazeera on Roku. I may read blog linked articles from time to time, but I certainly won’t give them any of my money.

    And, it’s like The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik said, most of the comments on conventional news sites are right wing cranks.

  16. 16
    BGinCHI says:

    They can’t go under fast enough. Journalism needs to reinvent itself. Period.

    The biggest problem for these papers is not that they are made out of paper, but that their content sucks.

  17. 17
    gaz says:

    I don’t read this unless linked to it. Same with most conventional media. I encounter enough concern general trolling as it is, on the good old internet.

  18. 18
    JWL says:

    I deleted my Post bookmark a couple of years ago, soon after they shut down Froomkin. It’s a shame what’s happened at that paper.

  19. 19
    Garbo says:

    Ah, Will Farrell as Neil Diamond. A favorite…

  20. 20
    EconWatcher says:

    As a resident of the Washington metro area, I think the Post is aiming for a demographic that hardly exists around here: The center right. What we have are a small contingent of actual liberals or lefties, a large contingent of center-left types, and a large contingent of barking, foaming wingnuts.

    The wingnuts, of course, read the Washington Times, and are unreachable for the Post. The rest of the population is to the left of the newspaper’s current line. So it’s not surprising that their numbers are taking an even worse hit than the average for print media. So it seems to me, anyway.

  21. 21
    Danny says:

    @DougJ

    Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw those numbers. They must have assumed they could make a play for the FoxNews demographic and we in their core customer base would just eat it up because we’re all so well mannered. Guess we’re not.

  22. 22
    pragmatism says:

    heavens to mergatroid, snagglepuss!

  23. 23
    amk says:

    These rags are on the life-support of past glory. Once that tube is yanked, they will be gone for good. Fucking fifth columnists.

  24. 24
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Newspapers did themselves.

    I feel bad for the three reporters I personally know, who are all now permanently unemployed, but newspapers are still working hard at making themselves irrelevant, and until they wake up and realize that not everyone is a Foxbot or propaganda addict, and that their jobs entail more than retransmission of press releases, they can enjoy their rocket ride to hell.

    I am.

  25. 25
    pragmatism says:

    @cosima: so the post has just been turning itself into the rocky mountain news, then? i thought that would happen when they merged and wondered why they chose to keep the post’s branding and masthead.

  26. 26
    Marc says:

    “I have to think that, in terms of circulation, it’s not a great idea for a paper with mostly left-leaning readership […] to transform itself into a conservative outlet, as the Post increasingly has.”

    That was certainly what drove us away. Well, that and the spotty delivery, and the decreasing content and increasing cost of subscriptions. But if you’re going to give us less for more, at least have the decency to cut Fred Hiatt first.

  27. 27
    Peej01 says:

    I only subscribe to the Post nowadays for the entertainment section. Their website is so slow as to be virtually worthless IMO. One of these days I will shake off the inertia and cancel my weekday sub. and go for Sunday only.

  28. 28
    4tehlulz says:

    This seemed inevitable, somehow.

    Today Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Washington Post editor David Maraniss’ new Barack Obama biography. The selection focuses on Obama’s first serious girlfriend, 25-year-old Genevieve Cook, whom he dated when he was 22 and living in New York.

    Using Barack’s love letters and Genevieve’s alarmingly well-written diary, Maraniss constructs what shall henceforth be known as The 4-Step Barack Obama Seduction Technique.

  29. 29
    jl says:

    WaPo has probably the worst regular economics columnist (should put that in scare quotes) in the country, Robert J. Samuelson (no relation to the late Paul Samuelson).

    the link below has two commentaries on his latest outrage, one by Barkley Rosser Jr. and one by Mark Thoma.

    http://economistsview.typepad......again.html

    And I mean ‘worst’ in several ways. RJS produces bad analysis, biased analysis, misleading figures, and the WaPo carefully disguises him as an objective, economically literate expert, not an ideological pundit pumping out propaganda.

  30. 30
    Mino says:

    NYT interview with Bain guy, Conard, who just came out with a book, Unintended Consequences, a lyric to rich.

    Compare and Contrast with NYT Kthug’s new one, End This (Fucking) Depression Now.

    It all right there in those two book–dueling ethos.

  31. 31
    Judge Crater says:

    You’re right, Doug. I live in DC and I haven’t bought the paper for years. The current publisher, Katherine Weymouth (granddaughter of Katherine Graham) is probably responsible for many of its failings. She’s a dilettante in the worst sense of the word. The paper of Herblock is now the paper of David Ignatius and Robert Samuelson, to name two of the more odious contributors to its opinion pages.

  32. 32
    jl says:

    @4tehlulz:

    Now, that is vetting! Anyway, brief description in the link sounds pretty bland and SOP young adult liberal scenario. Will probably disappoint the wingnuts, though I will not speculate on what they expected or wanted to read.

  33. 33
    dedc79 says:

    I live in Washington, follow politics very closely, and almost never read the Washington Post anymore. And I’m clearly far from alone on this. There’s just not enough in there to warrant paying for a subscription.

    If I want to read Ezra Klein or one of the few remaining liberal op-ed writers, I can do so on line.

    The local coverage is abysmal. They’ve greatly scaled back their federal coverage. The editorials can now sometimes be confused with the crap coming out of the Wall Street Journal.

    I don’t know, maybe if I didn’t hate the Redskins and Capitals, I might buy it for the sports section…

  34. 34
    ET says:

    I am a daily subscriber and the last two bill periods have seriously considered cancelling my subscription and pretty much over their crappy editorial page (talk about saving paper/ink/money). That and Fred Hiatt. He (with a big assist from Katharine Weymouth) has totally ruined what was a good/decent paper. What is Graham letting go on over there?

  35. 35
    fasteddie9318 says:

    In your next post, can you please tell us the story about the time you killed a drifter Charles Lane-lookalike to get an erection?

  36. 36
    chopper says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    yeah, every time i go to the post’s site my browser slows to a crawl and the page takes like 2 minutes to load.

  37. 37
    Randy P says:

    I have to confess that I loved having a daily subscription to the WaPo when I lived in the Washington suburbs. I got very fond of many of their features, if not necessarily their news coverage. It got me interested in a lot of strictly DC-area interests, like the innards of Congress or DC local politics.

    But their circulation department frankly sucks. I suspect they’d have a lot more subscribers if not for that. When I moved out of the Washington area, I found it all but impossible to get a Post. And I’m talking about Philadelphia and Wilmington, not the far side of the moon. OK, it’s not the Post’s fault that the Wilmington Barnes & Noble only ordered 2-3 papers on a Sunday. It is the Post’s fault if half the time that paper didn’t arrive, or arrived without its magazines and inserts.

    So then I tried mail subscription, which is outrageously expensive. They warned me the paper would be 5-6 days late. Fine. The reality is that the paper only arrived 75% of the time, and when it did, it averaged 3 weeks late. I can’t even understand how that’s possible. If they’d mailed it to Europe via the US Post Office, it would have gotten to me before then.

    So I gave up. I now take the NY Times for home delivery, because it’s really, REALLY easy to get the Times here in the Philly burbs. Every convenience store and bookstore carries it. I found the local Philly papers too embarrassing to read or subscribe to.

  38. 38
    liberal says:

    … as the Post increasingly has.

    Doubt that’s true. How was the Post on the Nicaraguan Contras, for example?

  39. 39
    eemom says:

    Yeah, it’s all well and good for you to write posts like this, and for other deecee denizens to trumpet their “goodness NO, I never TOUCH it” cred.

    I have a problem. I can’t quit the thing. Some days it lays in the driveway untouched in its plastic wrapper until someone takes pity and deposits it directly in the recycling bin. Other days when it does reach the kitchen counter I erupt in apoplectic fury over just the HEADLINES on the Hiatt pages. Hell, even the Saturday editorial cartoon page isn’t safe since they published that disgusting drek by that Australian wingnut pig from Clownhall. And EVERY day my husband demands to know why I don’t cancel the subscription. And I retort, oh I can cancel it ANY TIME I WANT TO.

    But I never do. : (

  40. 40
    Randy P says:

    @eemom: I used to be completely addicted to the “free for all” or whatever they called the letters page on Saturday, where they collected all the week’s rants from readers on driving 55 mph in the left lane of the beltway or whatever is the hot topic of the week.

    Steve Allen used to have a feature on his variety show (no, I’m not quite that old but I saw it in reruns on some cable channel or other) where he would read letters to the editor with what he imagined was the emotion of the person writing them. It was hilarious and I always imagined him reading this letters page.

    Also, too, I used to love the Op-Ed page on Saturdays. It’s probably been 10 years since I saw it, but they used to have some of my favorite writers, including Molly Ivins (now gone of course) and Ellen Goodman (retired I believe?)

  41. 41
    catclub says:

    @4tehlulz: “Using Barack’s love letters and Genevieve’s alarmingly well-written diary, Maraniss constructs what shall henceforth be known as The 4-Step Barack Obama Seduction Technique.”

    Is anyone else predicting a fraud/ made up words/ Janet Cooke
    expose on the horizon?

  42. 42
    catclub says:

    @eemom: well, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

  43. 43
    handsmile says:

    @eemom: (#39)

    Well, several of us here might be willing to stage an intervention, but we’d need assurances that all weapons have been removed from the household.

    Your online wrath is lethal enough.

  44. 44
    Gravie says:

    I just read it for the Sunday mag, the performing arts reviews, the comics and Carolyn Hax. And sometimes the Metro section. I can’t even stand to look at the op-ed pages.

  45. 45
    DougJ says:

    @eemom:

    I can’t quit them online either. I like the layout and there’s some good reporting. But the editorials and Pinocchio stuff make me crazy.

  46. 46
    LAC says:

    @dedc79: Amen to everything you have said. The only way I would bother with a subscription to WAPO is if the headline “Rubin, Krauthammer, and Haitt got blown up real good” showed up. The only section I sort of enjoyed was the Style section.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    @4tehlulz:

    Oh goody. Now we’re in for weeks of hearing about how Willard and Ann are so morally superior to the rest of us (especially Those People in the White House) because high-school-aged Ann moved in with Willard’s family while he was on mission in France so she wouldn’t date anyone else.

    (Edited for more accuracy)

  48. 48
    Samuel Knight says:

    DC area resident too.

    Post editorial page is awful – almost all “make up facts, add non sequitor, liberals suck” and go.

    And it’s always infected their reporting – remember defend the estabishment Broder was their “star” reporter. Remember they did NOT report the doubt before Iraq, or that Whitewater was drivel. And now – Murcoch story in the Style Section? Sarkozy is just losing because he’s a jerk – how about failed policies?

    And more broadly – read the Post and then ask yourself – did any of that actually telling you what Washington institutions were doing? Or was it all how this or that fluff would play?

    Brutal reality it’s still a Sally Quinn fluff piece.

  49. 49
    David Koch says:

    it’s not a great idea for a paper with mostly left-leaning readership (even though dead-tree subscribers skew old, I’m sure that subscribers to the Post and Times are mostly liberals) to transform itself into a conservative outlet, as the Post increasingly has.

    Ah – but most, if not all, of its advertisers are right leaning corporations.

    I mean the Times doesn’t employ Bobo to piss off it’s readers. No. It employs Bobo to placate their advertisers.

  50. 50
    eemom says:

    @Gravie:

    Carolyn Hax is something, isn’t she? Way back when she first started out I thought she was just a smart ass, but she’s really evolved. I have been consistently impressed with the thoughtfulness and depth of her responses — even sent her an e-mail once saying so.

    Then there’s my beloved, adored goddess, Miss Manners. She’s not around as much anymore, alas.

    And THEN there’s that godawful mindless twit, “Dear Amy.” She’s like the Ruth Marcus of the advice column crowd.

    @Randy P:

    It really did used to have a lot of great features. Since you’re an old timer like me, you might even remember Joel Achenbach’s “Why Things Are” column….

  51. 51
    eemom says:

    @handsmile:

    Your online wrath is lethal enough.

    I prefer to think of it as tough love.

  52. 52
    walden says:

    The news operation of the Post is actually better since Brauchli came in as editor, several years ago. If you read the straight new pieces and the international coverage it’s not bad at all. (But Dana Milbank should be permanently exiled to the op-ed section, because whatever it is he’s doing, it’s not reporting — it’s kind of like he’s auditioning to be the next Richard Cohen). The Style section continues to be weak, and the “Reliable Source” gossip column is just silly and insiderish. The business section has never been strong, but is a little better than in the old days (but it has a regular practice now of publishing complimentary articles about local executives — probably as a circulation/advertising – building ploy.)

    The editorial pages and op-eds have been a total mess since the death of Katherine Graham. The single bright spot has been the daily editorial cartoons, which are harder hitting than anything Herblock ever did and wickedly funny. The editorial voice and most of the op-ed columnists are center-right to wingnut-right-wing; always calling for wars on Middle Eastern countries; very pro-Israel; deficit harpies; for Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts; and very light on the facts. And this set of voices keeps meandering into the A section. But apart from the predilections of Don Graham and Katherine Weymouth and their apparent buddies like Krauthammer (who writes the same fulminations over and over) — it’s probable that the right-wing tilt of the editorial pages is a deliberate marketing strategy….to occupy the field of public discourse. (They’ve written off the liberals as subscribers and advertisers — but then need to be the “voice” of Washington so the big money advertisers — defense contractors, banks, foreign countries — will keep buying the full-page ads).

    It is strange that Washington has three daily papers — two hard-right (Times and Examiner), and one center-right (WaPo)

  53. 53
    MaxxLange says:

    I went to buy a daily copy of the NYT, to have something to read while I ate lunch, and it is $2.50 now! Homey don’t play that!

  54. 54
    Shane in Utah says:

    FWIW, the NYT app is my favorite news app for the iPad. Not for the content, which is what it is, but for the user-friendly interface and the fact that the entire day’s issue is loaded for reading off-line later, so you can read it on a plane or out in public without wifi. The Economist app is pretty good, too.

  55. 55
  56. 56
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The Post has no niche left outside of D.C. – it’s trying to settle between the Village pseudo-liberal line, now owned by the NYT, and WSJ editorial neo-fascism

    It won’t succeed

  57. 57
    Don says:

    @ET: Call up and tell them you want to cancel. You’ll be getting it for free for about the rest of the year.

    I am not exaggerating. I get the Sunday only and just this week got this pitch for the second time in the last 6 months: agree to get the paper daily and we’ll send it to you at no additional charge for the next 52 weeks.

    Yes, you read that right. They want subscribers so bad they’ll agree to deliver it every day for the price I’m already paying for the Sunday. Which, by the way, is less than the initial ask as well.

    This is an ongoing and descending trend. Here’s the story of my late 2010 price drop.

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