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Plus, Bloomberg restructured its sales & marketing teams
Last week, David and I spent time brainstorming and honing our view of this newsletter. One idea that resonated: We want to help operators build enduring media organizations. We liked the word “enduring” because it captures an ambition to leave a mark beyond next quarter’s (or year’s) profits. By understanding how leading media organizations have endured, might we help more media orgs succeed today?
So in this newsletter, I’ll talk a bit about The Washington Post’s mission statement. Consider it an experiment in unpacking one element of what makes a media company endure.
Last week, the former Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron published an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Collision of Power. The excerpt includes the story behind how The Post created its now-famous mission statement: “Democracy dies in darkness.” What surprised me most was how involved the paper’s owner, Jeff Bezos, was in the process.
In early 2015, Bezos asked Post staff to create a mission statement that should capture “an idea I want to belong to,” rather than “a paper I want to subscribe to.” And he told Post staff at the time, “On this topic, I’d like to see all the sausage-making. Don’t worry about whether it’s a good use of my time.”
The resulting process was, in Baron’s words, both “tortuous and torturous.” Task forces were assembled; external consultants were retained; a long list of ideas was created and maintained. Finally, after the better part of two years, Bezos made the call: “Democracy dies in darkness.”
But Bezos’ involvement shouldn’t have been surprising. At Amazon, Bezos has long thought carefully about mission and vision. In 1995, he launched the company with the goal “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” In 1997, he reinforced this customer obsession in Amazon’s first shareholder letter, which he republished each year as CEO. And you may have seen this interview from 1999, where Bezos articulates this customer-centric approach with memorable passion. It’s been a similarly consistent message ever since.
For Bezos, consistent messaging about goals and values is so critical because it enables long-term thinking. With a shared sense of purpose and history, it becomes possible to project much further into the future – and use a longer time horizon to your advantage. In that first shareholder letter, Bezos extolled this approach as a way to distinguish Amazon from its peers: “Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies.”
Today, as we’ve written, The Post is in transition. The paper is on track to lose $100 million this year, new leadership has entered the picture, and Bezos has reportedly become more involved. The organization appears to be searching for a new strategy, one that will help it succeed in a post-Trump media landscape.
But the Post’s mission helps put this uncertainty into context. Democracy dies in darkness. Four words that represent the long-term commitment of an organization to its readership – and country. According to Baron, “[Bezos] often spoke of what the business or the landscape might look like in ‘20 years.’” Perhaps that’s a more fitting time horizon to judge The Post’s success.
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
Bloomberg restructured its sales & marketing teams. Going forward, the teams will be organized around industry verticals (vs. geographies) in an effort to establish clearer internal ownership and boost events revenue. As part of the move, the company is also launching the Bloomberg Client Council aimed at strengthening relationships with top advertisers.
More on publishers:
Podcast studio Pushkin Industries is laying off 17 of its 54-person staff.
The Daily Beast’s TV & film-focused vertical, Obsessed, brought in over $1 million in ad revenue during its first year.
Gannett received nearly 1,000 applications for its Beyonce and Taylor Swift reporter job postings.
Former MLB star Alex Rodriguez will host a new podcast and video series for Bloomberg.
The Marshall Project launched its second local news operation, in Jackson, MI.
The 19th’s publisher, Amanda Zamora, is leaving at the end of the year.
More on platforms & AI:
Google launched a new tool publishers can use to ensure their content isn’t used as AI training data by Google.
Medium is blocking all AI companies from using its content as training data.
Meta unveiled 28 new AI chatbots, based on celebrities.
Artifact is adding the ability for users to post directly in the app (previously the app had only supported links).
Reddit is removing the ability for users to opt out of targeted ads.
Twitter has paid out almost $20 million to creators, according to the company’s CEO.
New York Magazine reviewed The Times, a forthcoming book that chronicles the history of The New York Times from 1977 to 2016.
Slate profiled Kelsey Russell, a 23-year-old grad student who “created a TikTok series chronicling what she learns each day from reading the New York Times’ physical newspaper.”
NYT explored the state of fact-checking, noting that “the number of fact-checking operations at news organizations and elsewhere has stagnated, and perhaps even fallen.”
In Nieman Lab, two academics argued that the news industry must address the threat generative AI poses to press freedom.
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