Who Will Report the News? WaPo Gets New Publisher

Katharine Weymouth, granddaughter of legendary Washington Post chairman Katherine Graham, has been named chief executive of Washington Post Media, a new division that encompasses The Washington Post newspaper and its online component, washingtonpost.com, WaPo has reported.

The appointment accompanies news that in March, WaPo will offer an undetermined number of early-retirement packages to newsroom staffers and other employees. The latest culling follows buyouts in 2003 and 2006, which reduced staff by about 120 employees.

Weymouth has a tough job ahead. Newspaper circulation, which peaked at 832,232 in 1993, has eroded to 638,000 papers Monday through Saturday. Quarter-to-quarter print advertising revenue at the Post declined 13% in the third quarter of 2007, with once-lucrative classified advertising revenues getting especially hard hit.

Revenues at the Post’s website is increasing, but not fast enough to offset newspaper losses. Website revenues added $2.7 million in revenue during the third quarter – far short of the $16.3 million in advertising that the newspapers lost. I would speculate that the newspaper and website combined have more readers than ever. The problem is that Web readership generates smaller ad revenues and tighter profit margins than print. That is the nature of the Web — and the bane of newspapers everywhere.

And what can we expect of Weymouth, a 41-year-old mother of three, a Harvard grad and recipient of a Standford law school degree? It looks like the newspaper and website will collaborate more closely. “We hope to get under the sheets, look at each other more closely, exchange information more freely and figure out what areas we can be more effective in working closely together and what areas should remain separate.”

Read the article and watch a short video clip. They do not inspire confidence. Weymouth surely knows the enormity of the challenge facing one of the world’s great newspaper brands, but she (or the newspaper article describing her ascension to the CEOship) doesn’t mention it, much less offer any path — futile or otherwise — to reverse the slide. But, hey, she does have a Facebook profile! That’s where the photo above is from. (Photo credit: Washington Post.)

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