What is an acceptable rate of innovation for an old media giant like the Washington Post? In a recent column, Patrick B. Pexton opines that the Post may be innovating too quickly.
Pexton wonders “whether there’s just a bit too much innovation, too fast.” He also goes on to say that “there’s a time to press on the accelerator, and a time to ease off. Substance, clarity and direction will be more important in the long run than buzz.”
Looking across the newspaper industry it doesn’t appear that any serious media company is pushing innovation strictly to create more buzz. Pexton takes a very stodgy position by saying “hardly a week goes by without the Web site or newspaper launching some feature, or a venture to attract more revenue, or a blog, or a social media innovation.”
I applaud The Post for embracing a start-up mentality. Just last week I posted on this blog about the need for newspapers to take risks and become early adopters. One could argue that a company should slow down to evaluate their success and failures, but is the competition taking such a break?
In 2011 The Washington Post Co. launched a news aggregation website called Trove that allows readers to customize the news around their interests. Similar innovations and risks have given newspapers the opportunity to better serve their readers.
While Pexton supports innovation, it appears he would rather see the Washington Post take things slower. It’s a surprising position.
As ombudsman, Pexton serves as a reader representative and The Post’s internal critic. It appears to me that Pexon treats the role seriously, but he should consider the role to also include education of the readers and community. While these innovations may make a few readers question the changes with the newspaper, Pexon should use his position to explain the strategy behind the improvements and additions to The Post.
Maybe it’s time for Pexton to realize that the innovations and speed in which they are happening are not about making him happy. It’s about reinventing the way we consume news and to attract new readers. It appears there are still many newspaper veterans that don’t understand media fragmentation, consumption habits, or that embracing innovation is the only way to save the newspaper industry.
As the Washington Post ombudsman, Patrick Pexton represents readers who have concerns or complaints on topics including accuracy, fairness, ethics and the news gathering process. He also serves as The Post’s internal critic and strives to promote public understanding of the newspaper, its Web site and journalism more generally. (Source: Washington Post)