The Washington Post's managing editor Raju Narisetti believes in a dedicated search engine optimisation policy as the paper embraces integration and tackles the challenges posed by a print product in decline. Narisetti was speaking at the 9th International Newsroom Summit in London, organised by WAN-IFRA.
The Washington Post's newsroom is now "pretty much completely integrated," with all physical barriers to integration removed, Narisetti explained. The space was entirely redesigned and is now centred around a 'universal newsdesk.' Staff have shifted to a web-first mentality, and many reporters now start work at 6am, with the first web meetings taking place at 8 or 9am.
In combining the two newsrooms - print and online, which were previously some distance apart - staff numbers were reduced from 800 to 580, Narisetti said. One of the Post's mottos concerning its staff has been "enable and equip but don't insist:" photographers are taught how to do video, for example, but they are not required to become videographers if they do not want to be.
Content creators have been separated from content packagers. The universal newsdesk handles all the content and decides what's going where.
The Washington Post is in the process of transferring to Eidos Media's Methode print/web platform, about which Narisetti was extremely enthusiastic, despite its expense. The system treats everything as XML, he explained, and can distribute content quickly to all platforms, allowing staff to work "seamlessly" in a single system.
Since Narisetti began the integration process, web traffic has become a much higher priority. "When I started, there were five people who would receive news on the number of page views, now 46 key statistics on our traffic are shared with 120 people," he explained. Goals are made for each day, and producers can track by the hour. Bonuses for many senior editors are now tied to web results and training in search engine optimisation has been provided for all reporters. There is a dedicated search and traffic editor who teaches journalists. Some of these lessons are as simple as using 'Republican' in their metadata rather than GOP.
As a result of this, Narisetti said, many more people are finding Washington Post content online. Unique visitors were up 17% in the first seven months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, and page views are also up.
With regards to making money from these online readers, "we continue to experiment with paid content knowing that there might be a first mover disadvantage," Narisetti said. The paper has introduced an iPhone app at a cost of $1.99 for a year, and , but he doesn't believe it makes sense for the Post to go behind a paywall yet. News bureaux have always been funded by "Walmart and Macy's," he said, though he sees a need to try to make "some money" from the end user.