September 4, 2014

Fred Ryan is now an iPhone guy.

“What you may have heard is I’m so clumsy typing with my thumbs that I held on to my BlackBerry,” The Washington Post’s new publisher said in a phone call. These days, “I am purely iPhone — and, of course, Fire Phone,” he said, referring to the handset recently launched by Post owner Jeff Bezos’ other company, Amazon. (“You need to order one!” he said.)

As in previous interviews about his new job, Ryan, who previously was CEO and president of Politico and COO and president of the Allbritton Communications Company, declined to outline a specific strategy for how the Post would make money as print revenue declines and digital ad revenue fails to fill the gap. “I have not gone through the ad split or seen the specific numbers,” Ryan said.

Ryan in 2014. (John Shinkle/Politico)

Ryan. (John Shinkle/Politico)

Asked to speak broadly, he said, “You have to approach this from all sides. Certainly the editorial side, but also the business side, expecting it’s going to be a time of change, and change that we’re still yet to see in the media industry.”

Everyone at the Post, he said, must “be prepared for that: The way we do business, the way we reach our readers and consumers will continue to change dramatically.”

The Post has launched a number of digital initiatives and products since Bezos bought it last August. (Ryan, who told Joe Pompeo he still starts his day with the paper’s print edition, says he “absolutely” has explored its digital offerings: “I go on from there,” he said.)

Many of those ventures have been aimed at a national audience, such as its opinion venture, Post Everything. But what about the region the news organization has traditionally covered?

“There has been a strong national growth strategy, but that does not preclude winning local coverage at all,” Ryan said. “Covering Washington, D.C., incredibly well and being the dominant news sorurce for Washington is not fundamentally at odds with having a huge national and international forotprint.”

I asked Ryan about his comment that “a key for Wapo is winning the morning,” as media reporter Erik Wemple tweeted during Ryan’s first meeting with the newsroom.

“The morning is a very important time for all of us, but certainly to get our bearings and to learn what happeneed overnight,” he said. “I believe it’s a very important time to connect with readers.” Ryan said the Post has already launched “some impressive morning products” and declined to say whether he planned to urge it to launch more.

“Well, the one thing I said in the newsroom is I think we will all have a common vision, and we’ll all have a culture of innovation, but when it comes to launching new products, new blogs, we’re not going to telegraph the things that we’re doing because there are so many eyes watching,” he said.

I also asked him whether he planned to urge the Post to spell its name in all-caps, as he reportedly did with Politico’s.

“I think the Post name looks just fine,” he said.

(Post style on Politico’s name probably won’t change, either: Post copy editor Bill Walsh tells Poynter the paper’s style is to “capitalize only the first letter unless each letter is pronounced as a letter.”)

Disclosures: Wemple and I both worked for Allbritton. I never worked directly with Ryan, though I was strongly in favor of a style decision our publication,, made, to not capitalize Politico. I strongly dislike all-caps names except when writing about GWAR, a band that doesn’t come up that often on my current beat.

Correction: This post originally included a line that demonstrated how easily I fell for an April Fool’s joke. While Politico has traditionally sought to “win the morning,” it did not seriously instruct reporters to “Win the Dawn.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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