Saturday night, Washington Post staff received an email from owner Jeff Bezos announcing that Will Lewis would serve as the news outlet’s publisher and CEO.
“As I’ve gotten to know Will, I’ve been drawn to his love for journalism and passion for driving financial success,” Bezos wrote in the email, according to the Post’s own reporting.
And the Post needs some financial success. After flying high covering the Trump administration and the 2020 election, digital subscriptions have dropped 15%. The politically minded paper has seen rounds of layoffs, including a current buyout program aiming to cut 240 roles, and is on track to lose $100 million this year, according to the New York Times.
Lewis previously served as leader of the Wall Street Journal and most recently founded a news startup trying to reach Gen Z.
Why it matters: The news industry is a business.
Yes, it’s a business often driven by strong ideals about democracy dying in darkness, but it’s a business nonetheless, with payroll to meet and shareholders and owners to please. Even the growing wave of non-profit newsrooms must appeal to donors and audiences to stay relevant and solvent.
PR pros will succeed most when they understand the business of the outlets they’re trying to pitch. What is motivating story selection? What metrics do reporters and editors have to show their bosses — is it page views, subscriptions, TV ratings, social buzz or something else?
By understanding what is economically driving the outlets you’re trying to pitch, you can hone your pitch to give yourself the best possible chance of pickup. If it’s a cloistered site with a hard paywall, you might want to go deep into the weeds with something niche that will appeal to an audience willing to pay for insight. If it’s a more general interest, free site, something with broader, clickier appeal might be the way to go. And if you’re dealing with a nonprofit, emphasizing the greater good might get a reporter’s attention.
Know the outlets you’re pitching to and tailor your pitches. Remember that at the end of the day, journalists have goals to meet and bosses to please just like you do.
Editor’s Top Picks
- Joe Biden has a PR problem. By most measures, the U.S. economy is performing well: jobs data is strong, and the GDP continues to grow. Inflation, however, remains stubbornly high, as do interest rates. These figures are hitting regular voters in the pocketbook and leading to slumping poll numbers for Biden, especially where the economy is concerned. Despite the president’s attempts to take credit for the strong parts of the economy with his “Bidenomics” tagline, voters aren’t buying it. A New York Times/Siena poll found Biden weak against Trump in five of six key battleground states — and just 2% of those surveyed rated the economy “excellent.” Biden has almost exactly a year to figure out how to make Americans feel better about the economy and earn their vote.
- Elon Musk’s xAI has released its first artificial intelligence chatbot, Grok. The generative AI bot is meant to rival ChatGPT and other major players, while also offering a bit of an edge. The company told CNBC that Grok is modeled on sassy computers in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Musk also touts the bot’s ability to access data posted to X as a selling point. For the moment, Grok is only available in a limited-release beta. Sign up for the waitlist here.
- The Verge offers a terrific deep dive into why Google search results just don’t feel as useful as they once did. The blame may lay partly on those who exploit their SEO skills for evil — but also partly on Google, who designed the algorithm in a way that it could be exploited. The article is long and well worth your time, but PR pros should focus on this section most of all: “…the best SEOs are the ones that follow Google’s rules, which essentially ask you to make amazing websites without even thinking about Google. You are not supposed to make any attempt to artificially boost a website’s ranking; you are supposed to be designing websites for human readers, not for the algorithm.”
Editor’s Note: It’s Communications Week! While our team is busy at the Future of Communications Conference in Austin, Texas, the Scoop will be on hiatus. We’ll be back this Thursday with more PR news!