The rise of self-publishing platforms, social networks, online publications and other technological advances have created a golden age of rapid news distribution and information sharing. They’ve also make it significantly more difficult to make money from traditional news outlets, such as newspapers and magazines.
Katharine Weymouth, the Publisher of The Washington Post, is more qualified than most to discuss the shifting media landscape. Katharine is a member of the family that has owned and operated The Washington Post for much of its storied history – which spans over a century. She remains the fabled media outlet’s Publisher today, even following its acquisition by the Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos.
Katharine will be appearing at the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference, where she will speak about the shifting media landscape, and leading an organization through change.
We recently had the opportunity to ask Katharine a few questions about the evolving media industry, Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of The Washington Post and the shifting business landscape in the nation’s capital. Here is what Katharine had to say:
CGCS: As someone who has spent a significant time in the media industry and has deep family ties and history in the industry, how has the media and newspaper industries changed? What has precipitated this change? How do you see the industry continuing to evolve in the future?
Katharine Weymouth: The newspaper landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade or so. My great grandfather bought The Washington Post in 1933 at a bankruptcy sale for under a million dollars. The Post was the fourth newspaper in a 5 newspaper town and lost money for the next 15 years.
My grandfather, like everyone who has run The Post since, believed that good journalism and good business went hand in hand. He invested in the paper to make it better and his investment paid off handsomely. The Post soon became the number one newspaper in Washington, D.C. and my grandmother, Katharine Graham and the Editor she hired, Ben Bradlee, invested further in the newspaper, making it a nationally and internationally respected newspaper and household name for breaking the Watergate story and publishing the Pentagon papers.
Over the course of almost 50 years, the paper became both a great business and a great newspaper. With the introduction of the internet, the effective monopoly that major metro papers had evaporated as readers and advertisers were able to get news and information from multiple sources. It has been a tough time for the business of newspapers, but at the same time, an incredibly exciting time for journalism as journalists are able to tell their stories in new, multi-faceted ways and reach readers they have never reached before.
The industry will continue to evolve and evolve fast, but news, and the need for quality, trusted news sources will only become more important.
CGCS: With The Washington Post recently being acquired by Jeff Bezos, how does this impact your roles and responsibilities at the publication? What changes do you see this acquisition bringing to the company? How does this position the company for the future and set it up for success in an evolving industry moving forward?
Katharine Weymouth: What has changed? I have a new boss, who happens to be a multi-billionaire and created an online retail behemoth that has changed the world of retail and the way consumers purchase.
Jeff Bezos has a track record of great patience, has proven himself to have a long-term vision and an obsessive focus on the consumer. With his vision and ideas, we will build The Washington Post for generations to come. We will build on the great reputation The Post has for journalism and innovation and create the news destination for the future. We will experiment, learn and build great products for our readers with the great content we have always been known for.
CGCS: Since you began at the publication, what changes have seen in the National Capital Region’s business community? What trends are driving these changes? How do you see business in the region evolving in the future?
Katharine Weymouth: The DC region has changed too. I moved here in 1993. At the time, DC was mostly a town known for lawyers, lobbyists, government workers and contractors and, of course, media.
Today, our region has become a technology and business hub that could begin to rival Silicon Valley. It has become home to innovative companies that range from Living Social to AOL, to biotech. I think we will continue to diversify in industries and it will only add to our ability to attract new residents and talent.
CGCS: What can attendees expect from your upcoming appearance at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference? What topics will you be addressing during your speech, and why are these topics important to business leaders in the Mid-Atlantic Region today?
Katharine Weymouth: I will focus on what I know best – the changes in the news industry and at The Post and leading through change. Every business leader I know is managing change and the challenges we have faced are everywhere.
Katharine is one of three exciting speakers appearing at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference. Her speech is part of an exciting schedule of events that includes three panel discussions, networking sessions and DealSource, where business leaders can get exclusive one-on-one access with investors. For additional information about the Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference – or to register – click HERE.