I asked Chyi what she thinks of the Washington Post’s strategy, which under new owner Jeff Bezos has continued to serve steak—about 500 staff-written pieces a day—as well as hamburger—another 700 clickbaity pieces drawn from wire services or produced in-house. Last year, this strategy pushed the Post’s total unique numbers above the New York Times’ for the first time.
“In the short term, the Washington Post will have more clicks,” she says, but in the long term, clickbait will “actually hurt the brand.” Most of these new uniques stay on the site for a short time, making it difficult to monetize their visits. “Too many newspapers are focused on short-term results,” she says.
Newspapers need to accept that much of their loss of audience is beyond their control, she adds. There’s the overwhelming competition from other media—sports channels, social media, movie channels, Netflix and other streaming services, and even video games. “For things that are under their control, they should make smart decisions.” Listen to readers, she counsels, and find better ways to serve their readers. Reject the idea that the newspaper is a doomed dinosaur.