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What does its new engineering blog say about The Washington Post?

November 4, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

The Washington Post isn’t just investing in innovation, it’s investing in the media innovation ecosystem with the launch of a new engineering blog that provides an inside look at the media company’s development challenges, strategy and tactics. Washington Post Chief Architect, Greg Franczyk, says that his team is tackling problems faced by others in digital media and the new blog offers a place to openly share “what we are doing to solve these problems, so that others can use our ideas, but also give us feedback to improve what we’re doing.”

The fact that this is an engineering blog is in itself significant. Over the course of his four-year tenure, Franczyk has seen a dramatic change in the company’s approach to technology. “When I started in 2011, we didn’t have an engineering department; we were really an IT department. In an IT culture, you work with vendors; you call the support line. In an Engineering culture, you build things and solve problems.”

Franczyk says The Washington Post had a good focus on technology under former CEO Donald Graham, however “Post-Bezos, technology became front and center,” and the transformation has been great. Their “scrappy” engineering team has adopted a move fast, fail fast ethos in which they are constantly trying to solve newsroom challenges and problems faced by product teams. “Because we are doing so many things, trying so many things, and moving so quickly, we can offer insights that will be applicable to others out there.”

While the blog will focus on tactics, it will also touch upon the strategic thinking behind the tactics. Franczyk believes that “your culture is your strategy,” an ethos that comes through on the blog driven by The Washington Post’s experimental, innovative culture. “It would be nice to say one thing happened that made us successful. But ultimately, it is a tapestry.” He credits the organization’s drive to reach new digital audiences and increase its production and distribution of original content as essential elements to its overall plan for success—pointing to its record-setting traffic month in September. Though “all these things have a multiplying effect, you couldn’t reach these kinds of audiences without strong digital capabilities.”

Overall, Franczyk believes the tech story needs to be better integrated into of the bigger story of the landscape of industry solutions. “The whole industry is on the verge of a revolution,” he says. And while “working in a silo is okay for some things, others require industry-wide change.” With the new blog, he and his team are optimistic that they can help drive industry solutions, but also fuel the culture of innovation and experimentation that is driving The Washington Post.

 

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