the washington post

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“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the new tagline of The Washington Post, now found under the masthead. It’s being lauded as a wonderful brand idea. I must agree. It’s poetic, memorable and few papers can wear it as can The Washington Post. Bravo.

Critics might say it’s a little generic. Not exclusive. But this isn’t the Amityville Record we’re talking about it’s one of the top two or so newspaper brands in the U.S.  One famous for breaking stories from the darkness.

When I think about the word democracy these days, the tweak toward president Trump that is this new tagline makes me wonder about the roots of the words democrat and republican. Is a republic different from a democracy?

The dictionary suggests a republic is “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.” The latter part of the definition “chosen indirectly” by them, may set a republic apart from a democracy.

This tagline positions democracy a left leaning concept, then, which most people will agree is a foundational paper POV. As smart as the tagline is, I’d hope we don’t begin to politicize the word democracy as a blue concept.  Nice tagline. I hope it doesn’t create a hint of darkness on its own.




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Jeff Bezos visited The Washington Post yesterday and was tweeted as saying “I’ve always felt that the most powerful minds in the world can hold powerful inconsistencies.” Well, if the most powerful minds in the world (Einstein, Franklin, Churchill) offer inconsistencies what can we expect of brands?  Brands need a plan, all the more.

We know when a brand pushes innovation, perception of that brand’s cost goes up. When a brand promotes tasty, it conveys less-than-a-healthy food choice. These values are inconsistent related to a positive consumer value proposition and managing.

A good brand plan offers consistency.  A brand plan and the brand managers who create, support, and follow it are charged with removing as much inconsistency in the brand experience as is humanly possible. Protect the plan and you improve marketing cost-effective.  Those who do, become zealots….my favorite kind of people.

The people at The Washington Post have a brand plan but they know about inconsistency. It fuels their business. Mr. Bezos gets their world (for now) and ours. Peace! 

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“I want my news and I want it in my eyes now!” is a riff on something my very young daughter said when sitting at a restaurant, being told by her grandmother her tuna fish sandwich was coming. No doubt, for the 4th time.

When I was a kid, radio was the only place to get news in real time and it required having a reported on site – so it wasn’t really real time. Thanks to Twitter and video and camera phones, the news today is available in real time. And though it may not always be well-packaged, presented or analyzed, it’s available as it happens.  The news biz is a changing thanks to the web and technolo-yee.  It is always on. And way exciting.

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz is a well respected political news reporter based in Washington DC.  He’s the shizz. When interesting things happen, he finds them.  Or they find him.  Mr. Kurtz is leaving The Washington Post for The Daily Beast online. Why?  You’d have to ask him, but my take is for freedom, excitement, a little bit of sexy, and the unknown that is real time reporting. His business card certainly won’t have the cachet it once did, but history is his to make…and report.

The Daily Beast, and its probable new partner Newsweek, are growing up and growing down respectively. If the two merge is should be exciting to see the morph. Were I Tina Brown (the Beast’s co-founder), the person expected to helm the combined enterprise, I’d lose the entertainment, the food and other ancillary things and go news and politics.  It’s a herd of cats that can be better managed. And a beast it will be. Peace!

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Two big ideas.

 The Root is a new online magazine targeting African Americans, underwritten by The Washington Post. Its editor-in-chief is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. a writer and Harvard professor . The managing editor is Lynette Clemetson and contributing writers will include Malcolm Gladwell and William Julius Wilson. Donald E. Graham, CEO of the Washington Post and son of Katharine Graham, is its CEO and looks to be putting some serious financial support behind it. With Senator Barack Obama running for president, now may be the perfect time for The Root’s launch.

Another interesting fact about the magazine is its focus on genealogy. Building family trees is encouraged as is DNA testing to assist in the tree building. Mr. Gates owns a company that will assist in this DNA research as African Americas trace their lineage backward, extending to various regions of Africa.  Very cool stuff.
Both of these are powerful, timely ideas, but probably should remain separate business ventures. The mission gets a little blurry when trying to explain how the two things work together, e.g., politcal and cultural news/commentary and genealogy. Were I running the show, I’d keep The Root for the genealogy business and come up with a more today, topical name for the editorial property. And separate them.
That said, good luck to both enterprises.

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