At D7, Washington Post meets Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington and The Washington Post's Katharine Weymouth meet on the D: All Things Digital stage for a discussion about the future of journalism.

Arianna Huffington and the Washington Post's Katharine Weymouth discuss the future of journalism at D: All Things Digital in Carlsbad, Calif. Ina Fried/CNET

CARLSBAD, Calif.--The Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth on Thursday tried to put the best face on the changes that have battered the newspaper industry.

"There is no doubt we have our challenges," Weymouth said, appearing on the D: All Things Digital stage along with Arianna Huffington. "We are going through this incredible seismic shift in the industry."

At the same time, she noted that 90 percent of The Washington Post's Internet traffic is outside he Washington Post, presenting the paper with an opportunity that didn't exist in print.

"We have to adapt," she said. "We can put our head in the sand and hope it all goes away or we can move. We're moving."

That hasn't helped avoid the financial impact though.

"We're losing money," she said. That's not something she is proud of. At the same time, she said the company is working on finding new areas that could be profitable down the road, such as working with Google to develop a news product--as well as offering the Post on devices like the iPhone and Kindle.

As for the Huffington Post, Weymouth said it drives a lot of traffic to The Washington Post's Web site. But, it also represents a challenge.

"We need to learn from what the Huffington Post does," she said. "We can learn from Drudge, from Politico."

For her part, Huffington offered a backhanded compliment to the print medium.

"I personally happen to love reading newspapers," she said. "It may be my age."

Moderator Kara Swisher noted the difference in size between their two newsrooms. Huffington said she had about 60 reporters and editors, as opposed to the Post, which has shrunk its newsroom staff, but still has 800 people creating the content.

Later though, Weymouth noted that the paper had a newsroom staff of around 375 people when it covered Watergate.

Huffington said, as she did before Congress recently, that the push to save newspapers is misguided and should be a conversation on preserving good journalism. She said the newspapers' plea for help reminds them of the auto industry's request at the beginning of the decade to relax environmental standards as opposed to working to transform themselves.

Weymouth said that she isn't asking for any handouts. "We are a business and we will return to profitability," she said. "We're a business. We need to be a business. That's what makes us great."

Swisher pointed out that Huffington isn't making money either.

"We are breaking even," she said.

She said her focus is on advertising revenue. Huffington said that subscriptions online only work for porn and "really weird" porn at that.

As for journalism, Huffington said that the industry has focused too much on writing stories as if every issue has two equally valid perspectives.

"Very often truth is on one side or the other," She said. "That's not partisanship."

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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