When The Washington Post closed it’s HoCo office back in 2006 the media company was grappling with the harsh budget realities of declining advertising revenue and stagnant subscriber growth. Branch offices don’t come cheap.
Retrenching from the suburban beat even further, in December of 2008 The Baltimore Sun and the Post announced that they were going to begin sharing content rather than competing for stories on the same turf. For the Post this allowed them to pull back even further from the burbs. In the most recent example of this content sharing, the Post picked up this Jessica Anderson story from the Sun about the proposed HoCo growler legislation. In their "shared content" version, the Post editors dropped the HoCo loco angle. While Randy Marriner with Victoria Gastro Pub and David Venable with the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company were predominately featured in the original story, the HoCo loco innkeepers were edited out in the Post. It was as if they had planted the white flag at the HoCo border.
In the not so distant past, The Post and The Sun battled for readership in HoCo. HoCo readers and advertisers were once coveted by both papers. Now, it appears that the Post is ceding that ground. Last week in this story by Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times, the reporter notes that the paper “serves a purely local print market, one that for decades had limited competition, and it has depended on local advertisers and subscribers who have since fled to the Web.”
Senior Post writer and editor Robert G. Kaiser put it even more succinctly:
“When I was managing editor of The Washington Post, everything we did was better than anyone in the business,” he said. “We had the best weather, the best comics, the best news report, the fullest news report. Today, there’s a competitor who does every element of what we do, and many of them do it better. We’ve lost our edge in some very profound and fundamental ways.”
So far, The Post has not taken the same route as The Sun with digital subscriptions. Subscribers to the print edition still receive free access to the digital Post, which includes a nice little app for the iPad. On the other hand, The Sun has taken greater initiative in embracing loco blogs to supplement its loco coverage while the Post has relegated the DC metro blogging community to deep within its website.
It will be interesting which of these different routes provide a road map for survival in the digital age.