Thursday evening a few colleagues and I visited the interactive offices of the WashingtonPost.com. With super impressive digs the folks over in their Arlington offices are doing some multidimensional work that ventures far beyond the expectations one would have for a local news paper.
When taking a look at the Top 20 Online Current Events & Global News Destinations from Nielsen//NetRatings for September 2007 you will see the Post hanging tough amongst national and global news leaders such as CNN, Yahoo! News, Google News, ABC and CBS. While the Post is not the only local new paper on the list (the NYTimes hold tight in the top 5), it is in a minority amongst large national and global news organizations.
What I find so fantastic about the WashingtonPost.com is the quality of their online media. While a percentage of their content is repackaged stories from their print edition, they have a hefty number of reporters and videographers who are exclusive to the online addition. The team’s online video coverage of Hurricane Katrina won them an Emmy for outstanding achievement in content for non-traditional delivery platforms in a category where they were match up against other major players such as MTV and National Geographic.
My background is in print design. I was a real pain in the ass when it came to accepting the ways of the web, so when the age old argument of print vs. web surfaces I really can say I understand both sides of the spectrum. There is a certain comfort and experience in holding a printed piece of paper in your hand. There is the way it feels, how it smells… the convenience of having it to roll into a tube to wack* your cat’s ass when she jumps on the kitchen counter for the umteenth time. The Washington Post is an interesting experiment in this arena, a news organization operating both in print and online very successfully. The Washington Post’s average weekday print circulation is 635,087 for 6 month circulation yet they receive 8 million unique visitors to WashingtonPost.com every month. Honestly, I am not going to figure out what the hell those numbers really mean. I don’t need quantitative data or stodgy old stats to support my perspective… I just need you to go and watch Gladys Mitchell recount “being so close” to Dr King on WashingtonPost.com….
I can not see how a printed article or photograph could evoke the same emotion that prickled down my spine as I watched her hand jesters, her eyes flutter, and heard her southern accent peppered with long deep pauses. You could argue that broadcast could bring you those same feelings, but the magnificent difference is the user’s capability to look through the comments, join the conversation, and control their online experience. The user can reach out and connect with others who were just touched by the same spine-tingling feeling run down their spine… that is the beauty of digital. That is what you call interactive news, and while print will never die it will never provide the same level emotion that an online newspaper has the capability of delivering.
For more insight into the cool stuff thats going on at the WashingtonPost.com check out Apple’s awesome Pro video on them.
*When I say “wack” I mean make a loud noise… not really hurt her. I would never hurt my cat, and I do not endorsing anyone hurting theirs. If you are interested in helping some local cats please check out http://www.mcatdc.org/