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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Content syndication the latest target in The Washington Post’s news-business revamp

January 18, 2016 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

The momentum at the post-Bezos Washington Post shows no signs of slowing, starting with a focus on readers that is fueled by a complete technological transformation. From building Arc, a proprietary content management system, to hiring a slew of engineers and embedding them in every area of the business—today’s Washington Post has made its global ambitions clear. The company has just launched an all-new news service and syndication site that is reflective of its focus on internal innovation and ever-widening business plans.

The new news service and syndicate delivery site provides streamlined access to content from The Post, Bloomberg News and Japan News for use in subscribers’ digital publications. Like all things Washington Post these days, the new site emphasizes user experience, and focuses on speed and ease of use to allow clients to quickly identify content of interest and incorporate it into their sites.

Syndication is among the many elements of the newspaper business that are ripe for reinvention according to Alan Shearer, editorial director for The Washington Post News Service and Syndicate. “For many decades, we had a curated news service that was very successful. We sold mainly to newspapers on a subscription basis—but, as you can imagine, that business started to decline.”

Shearer says that the newly-revamped news service and syndication site was not prompted as much by the decline in subscriptions as by the increased opportunity offered by the digital content marketplace. The Washington Post has a much broader range of potential customers than in years past. “We went from a market limited to newsprint publications to an almost unlimited market all over the world.” While their current customer base is dominated by newspapers and new sites, Shearer says they are already starting to see a change, with more interest coming from digital-only niche sites and foreign organizations seeking larger licensing deals.

From the subscriber point of view, the new site offers more granular content and image search. According to Shearer site speed is the number one priority—too many categories can slow site performance. Clients can expect fast access to three times as much news and multimedia content. The next step, says Shearer, is ecommerce which will not only allow clients to more easily track use and pay bills, but also enable anyone, anywhere to buy and use Washington Post content: “the micropayment dream.”

He emphasizes that the newly revamped news and syndication site is indicative of The Washington Post’s broader philosophical approach to technology and business. “We see this as an ecosystem that is going to be continually improved through user suggestions. We have a saying now: If you have to have a meeting or committee to study something, it is already too late. Do it, if it doesn’t work, do something else.”

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