Katharine Weymouth of the Washington Post and Arianna Huffington talked about news and political coverage on and offline at last week’s D.
Weymouth says for their audience, its about learning how people digest news on the web. “We’ve blown up our news room and restructured. For years, the newspaper was centered around sections,” she says.
Arianna says, “people consume information online differently. It’s not as if you make a choice to buy Time or Newsweek. You never just visit one site online. The more interesting stuff that you see online, the more habitual your online behavior becomes.”
Talk about a dialogue where old media meets new. Arianna has just over 60 people working for her now whereas the Washington Post has 800 people, some who have been in the business for decades.
Kara asks them how they deal with cost structures. Says Katharine, “the mistake is to think of them as substitutes. Our biggest readership is not surprisingly during the day. People may read the paper in the morning then check the rest of it online during the day or for searching for something specifically. We need to do this on different platforms.”
Regarding the topic of ‘saving newspapers,’ which was bound to come up, Arianna, who still loves reading a newspaper says, “its not about saving newspapers, its about saving journalism.” She adds a humorous saying by a Greek philosopher from 2,000 years ago – ‘ you cannot enter into the same river twice.’
She adds, “the conversation on whether its going to be online or in newspapers is done. Let’s stop talking about old media and new media, its about the media of yesterday and the media of tomorrow.”
Kara asks Katharine what the Washington Post will look like tomorrow. She believes in the newspaper and print but online is part of that. “I still do believe in print and I see it as a compliment. We’re looking at the DX, Plastic Logic and the Kindle. Nothing yet has been invented that replaces what is really good about a newspaper.”
For the Huffington Post, it’s all online and that isn’t going to change. That’s where they started and where they’re going, in addition to other platforms, such as the iPhone and the Kindle.
Someone from the audience asks Arianna what her vision is for the Huffington Post four years from now. She never leaves an interview on the table without infusing a bit of humor.
“I don’t like to make plans that far in advance, partly because I’m a superstitious Greek girl,” she says. “I don’t like to count my clams before they’ve hatched.”
It’s clear that Huffington Post’s digital online world will stay that way and remain interactive. “Consuming news online is like galloping on a horse,” she says. “You get involved in what you’re reading and you pass it on. It’s a great era for journalism because in the end, we’re creating a new generation of ‘news’ consumers. We can become really engaged citizens.”