Laura Evans, vice president, research and chief experience officer for The Washington Post, was online Thursday to chat live with readers about her new role and plans for the print newspaper, Web site, mobile apps and other Post products.
CXO is a new role at the Post geared toward making Post products easy to use and navigate, in addition to ensuring readers continue to interact with Post journalism.
We’ve highlighted some of the chat questions and Laura’s responses in this post. While we weren’t able to address every question in the chat, we will read all of the chat questions and, when appropriate, forward them to the teams that can help. We may also address some of the questions in future Ask The Post Q&As.
First up: a very important question — what exactly is a CXO?
Q: I read the biographical blurb that accompanied the chat page and a few questions arise: Do you consider yourself a journalist? What is your prior experience with news providers? As a consumer of journalism, what I want from a news provider is accurate, timely reporting of matters of interest provided in an easy to use and cost-effective manner. How does a CXO, as opposed to a run of the mill "editor," facilitate these objectives?
The role of the CXO is meant to complement the newsroom by bringing in reader insights into the decision making process of how we display news and information (our journalism) in our products. Our journalism remains very much the domain of our experienced news reporters and editors. As for my prior experience, I have spent the last 9 years helping The Washington Post better understand what our readers want/don't want or read/don't read.
Q: The WaPo Web site by all objective measures is slooooow. Slow to load. Slow to update. Slow to load comments. Have you ever benchmarked the site against similar services such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, both of which have much peppier pages. Is it a matter of just not having enough back-end resources such as servers or is there just something inherently inferior about how your site is set up?
We are aware of this issue and working on it. We do benchmark against other sites and do see areas where we can and will improve. Many readers have brought this to the attention of our ombudsman, who did a recent column on it.
Q: So The Post is now a product marketed to customers, not a serious journalistic enterprise. Maybe this is part of the problems? With that Kaplan and SalonGate stuff, maybe the Post needs a chief integrity officer??
The Washington Post is a very serious journalistic enterprise and one with the highest integrity. Our newsroom and our business side adhere to very ethical codes of conduct. A newspaper, a Web site, mobile apps - these have always been products that have customers. And, customers with opinions. We have always believed that you it is important to be a good business and a great journalistic enterprise and these are not in conflict.
Q: Why does The Post have video ads, with sound, before slideshows?
As a free news site, we do depend on advertising to support our news gathering. Video ads (commercials) are popular among advertisers and serving advertisements is one of the key ways that we have been able to have a consistent Pulitzer Prize winning (photo) staff. We balance this with the consumer experience by only having these show at the beginning and not throughout a gallery as you see elsewhere.
Q: I hope that you can bring more consistency to how information is treated across platforms. Right now, there is no consistency to how information is treated. If I start reading an article in the paper, it is difficult -- and at times impossible -- to locate on the Web site later when I want to finish reading it. If I start reading something on the iPad app, it is difficult to find it on the Web site. And the bifurcation of the way news is treated on the main Web site and the local Web site is nonsensical and frustrating.
This is an area we constantly discuss and try to address. Balancing the readers who are used to our labeling in the newspaper and how that translates online. A local reader knows what the Style section is. That it has a range of topics from political profiles, to movie reviews, to the Washington gossip of Reliable Source. On the website, however, our national audience doesn't know this tradition and "style" is seen only as fashion. As we create new products we need to balance the tradition with the informative, the local readers with the nonlocal customers and come up with a better way to go crossplatform. This is a goal of mine in this new role.