DC Startup Forum: WaPo's Risky Business
Will Vijay Ravindran put The Washington Post in the forefront of digital strategies? Ravindran is the Washington Post Company Senior Vice President and the first (ever) Chief Digital Officer. Recently, he sat down with AU’s J-Lab Director and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jan Schaffer, to discuss his new expanding role and the future of news reporting. The event was the first in a series of the DC Startup Forum (see the other events here), a collaboration of AU’s Media Entrepreneur Masters Program and WAMU radio.
With the introduction of online tools such as Trove, The Root 100, The Fold, and WAPO Social Reader, the Post is among one of the top city papers in the country that is creating interesting, innovative content for users who want to cut cables and go to the web for their evening news. Ravindran and his team of about 40 creative web developers, software engineers, and reporters create apps with this audience in mind. Like any cutting edge industry that is attempting to create a new product for a shifting market, the difficulties faced by the Digital Office in this new venture are no exception.
Ravindran runs his department understanding that the products they create are in response to what consumers want, a tricky thing to truly grasp as technology continues to evolve. For example, WAPO Social Reader, which utilizes Facebook’s sharing capabilities, will be launching a redesign within the year responding to growing complaints of the inability to actually access articles users friends share, as well as increasing concerns with privacy issues. Other issues with Trove and The Root 100 revealed that people weren’t fully happy with the content available or user capabilities, details that are constantly being addressed by the Digital Office.
On the other hand, The Fold, a TV space built online with the idea that tv should be “sharable”, is reaching highly engaged audiences with the daily news, brought to them through an app, and filmed in a hip, casual style. (WATCH HERE) Through successes and growing pains, WAPO is taking risks, putting products in the market that are creative and first of their kind.
At the end of the day, Don Graham did not hire Vijay Ravindran to save journalism from a crumbling news industry. Rather, holding true to the strong belief that in the future consumers will expect high quality news from reputable news sources delivered through a trendy model, WAPO committed to remaining a step ahead of the curve. What this new style of journalism still lacks is a clear definition. WAPO is taking the challenge on, and Ravindran and his team are reformatting the news from the inside of the company, out.
Be sure to check the other DC Startup Forum events at AU and come learn from the best in the field!
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