Posted on June 2, 2008
Numbers in the newsroom and in the audience
Two snips out of Howard Kurtz’s Washington Post column on May 25:
… we are working harder than ever, in part because of the round-the-clock demands of the Web; Post campaign reporters are constantly writing online items for The Trail column in addition to their daily stories. So to suggest that a shrinkage of the Post newsroom from the equivalent of 780 full-time employees to 680 — offset by perhaps 20 new hires — won’t affect the range and quality of what we do is simply unrealistic. (Another 100 work in the washingtonpost.com newsroom.) And, following a peak of 900 employees, this is the third round of buyouts in five years.
I’m in Vietnam training print journalists for their online future, and at dinner a couple of Saigon Times editors were asking me about workflow and newsroom practices at U.S. newspapers. They know that many of our Web sites are more advanced than theirs (their population is just now starting its big boom in Internet adoption), but they were not aware of the scope of job cuts in North American newsrooms. It’s true that the cuts (at the Post and elsewhere) have been deep and painful. It’s true they have affected what is covered and how well. But 680 newsroom employees … ?
I didn’t take a headcount during my tour of the Saigon Times building earlier today, but I’d be surprised if they have 200 newsroom employees here — and they are producing five publications in two languages.
Daily circulation for the newsprint Post, now 673,000, may be down from 813,000 in 2000, but we are drawing an eye-opening 9.4 million unique visitors online each month, 85 percent of them from outside the D.C. circulation area. Those readers don’t bring in the cash that print subscribers do — given the gotta-be-free mentality of the Web — but they do expand our reach.
This opens a different topic: Is expanding your reach worth anything? Does the Post stand to gain anything from those 8 million non-local visitors?
Looking at my blog stats last night, I noticed that about 68 percent of my visitors came only once ( “Visitor Loyalty” in Google Analytics). That made me feel a little depressed for a few seconds. Then I looked at the numbers for people who visited nine or more times in April. They added up to about 2,000 people. Cool. I felt rather pleased.
I’m not sure there’s a way to tie these two numbers together — newsroom staff levels and content reach — but I would venture to say that one might be higher than necessary, and the other needs further analysis before it becomes useful.