Laura Evans leaves Washington Post for Dow Jones

Laura Evans becomes the fourth high-level executive to leave the Post this year. Managing Editor Raju Narisetti left the paper for The Wall Street Journal, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co., in January. Investigative reporter James Grimaldi joined The Journal after taking a buyout from The Post in April. Katharine Zaleski, The Post’s executive director of digital news, left the organization in May to join a video startup. And in late June, Liz Spayd confirmed she’d be leaving her managing editor job at the Post at year’s end.

Washington Post Company President and GM Steve Hills writes the memo:

To All Post Employees,

I want to let you know today that after ten years at the Post, Laura Evans, our Vice President of Research and Chief Experience Officer, has decided to leave the company to join Dow Jones. Please join me in thanking Laura for the very valuable contributions she has made to The Post and in wishing her the best in her new position. We are sorry to see Laura go.

During her time here, Laura has led our research efforts and provided valuable insights about our customers and how they interact with us across all platforms. Laura’s dedication to metrics and an outside-in view of our business has been a great asset to our efforts to grow audience and increase engagement.

Laura has built a strong team and we’re confident that even as we evaluate future plans we’ll be able to move forward without losing time or momentum.

We will take the necessary time to develop a detailed plan as to how to proceed. Until that evaluation is complete, we will operate as follows:

Ø Jeff Chin, Director of Analytics, and Will Larson, Manager of Forecasting & Modeling will report to Shailesh Prakash, Vice President Digital Product Development & CIO.

Ø Asheley Dozier, Digital Marketing Manager, will report to Gregg Fernandes, Vice President of Circulation.

Ø Jon Cohen, Director of Polling, and Eileen Krill, Manager of Research, will report to me.

We will look to these leaders to help us develop the best organizational solution for the short, medium and long term.

All changes will be effective immediately.

Steve Hills

Evans was appointed chief experience officer in October 2011. “We do not create new executive positions lightly,” publisher Katharine Weymouth wrote in a memo to staff at the time. Here’s Weymouth’s memo announcing Evans’ ascendance to the “CXO” spot.

All Post Employees,

We are pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Laura Evans is promoted to Vice President, Research & Chief Experience Officer. In
her new role, Laura will continue reporting to Steve Hills on the business side and working closely with Marcus and his team on the news side, but will report directly to me for product decisions involving our content.

The Chief Experience Officer (CXO) is a new role at The Post, and I’d like to take a moment to explain what this role means and how it will function moving forward. We do not create new executive positions lightly. We are creating this role to strengthen the voice of the
consumer in our product development and execution.

As you know, one of the three foundational elements of our strategy is a relentless focus on the customer. While we all care about the customer and try to advocate for the customer, we do not currently
have an executive owner of the customer experience. That was acceptable when we published one newspaper a day—when we had a well-honed product with over a century of research behind it. In a day
when we have evolved to a 24/7 news operation publishing on multiple platforms, and when we operate in a hyper-competitive market, the customer must be the primary driver of our product-related decisions
and changes. Today, we have scores of products that touch our customers in myriad ways—ranging from our flagship newspaper to our growing suite of mobile apps. We must understand the customer
experience across and within all of these and other platforms. That understanding must be guided by accurate data and expert analysis of those data. In this regard, the CXO role is a natural extension of Laura’s previous role, where she worked with key leaders across the company to guide our consumer-related decisions with a deeper understanding, based on research and data, of our customers’ behavior,
preferences, and interests.

We have some of the best designers in the country. Our Visuals Editor, David Griffin, our Design Director, Janet Michaud, and Sarah Sampsel, our Director of Digital, Mobile and New Product Design, and their
teams, will work closely with Laura in creating our design and the user experience, across all our news products. I believe—as Steve Jobs famously said—that “design is not just how it looks and feels. Design is how it works.” That’s the mantra that our company follows, and where Laura has much to offer. How do we make our products easy to use and navigate? How do we ensure our readers enjoy the experience of using Post products, so that they spend more time interacting with our journalism? By adding Laura’s customer-focused expertise and capabilities throughout the process, we will be better able to achieve those goals.

What will change is that new products and major changes to existing products will now require approval by the CXO. Today, we use research and analytics often to vet designs. Going forward, our CXO will be
regularly involved at the beginning of the process—setting priorities, guiding concepts and testing ideas. This process and structure will take us out of the realm of personal biases and opinions and into the realm of the best-run product companies—where products are launched and iterated based on metrics, data and user feedback. We have taken great strides already in becoming more externally focused. This is another essential step to ensure that our products reflect that focus.

What will not change? The News department’s role in determining what we cover, how we cover it, and how we present daily news to our readers and viewers will not change. Laura will work with the design and editorial teams in the newsroom—as she has in the past—to
collaboratively address issues with current products and aid in the building of new ones.

Some restructuring will occur as a result of this change—involving positions whose primary focus will be analytical in nature and which we believe will benefit from moving to Laura’s organization. These functions include digital marketing, circulation marketing analysis, and dashboard building and analysis using our cross-platform data warehouse. Because of Laura’s deep connection to our products, and her
success in developing useful and clear analysis to drive action, we believe these structural changes will make us better as a company. As is the case today, she will continue to work closely with Rich Handloff, Director of Consumer Marketing, and his team.

Laura has been with The Post for nine years, functioning as our chief researcher for most of this time. She has been a critical component in most of our design changes, including the recent Sunday newspaper changes and our digital pay wall and pricing analysis. Laura has also helped to create company traffic goals, dashboards, and forecasts
which have not only helped us understand what success looks like, but also aided in our recent digital traffic increases. Prior to joining The Post, Laura worked in the research division of Weber Shandwick,
and as an analyst for a nonprofit association for women-owned businesses. Laura is currently completing her Ph.D. in Political Science with a concentration in Quantitative Methods at The George
Washington University. She holds a Masters degree in Applied Politics and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Law from American University.

Please join us in congratulating Laura in her new role.

Related: What’s really going wrong (and right) at The Washington Post

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