The big challenge for Washington Post’s 12 new hires

So the Washington Post is going to be hiring “More than a dozen new employees across design and tech…”. The group will “…rethink the web and make our site more dynamic, flexible and easy to use”. A whole 12 people! That’s like a football team right? This compact team seems typical of Jeff Bezos’ preference for pizza sized teams (he will only hire people who are as small as a pizza, or something). This is positive for an industry that in the past has been incapable of thinking small and nimble. Remember Project Euston? Yeah the project that was going to reimagine the future of news? They had a similar brief which sounded much more incendiary- “capitalise on cutting edge ideas” and “drive new revenue streams”. That was in late 2009, they recently absorbed the group back into the mothership after Lewis and MacLennan couldn’t decide where they wanted to go. Most press coverage of the Washington Post announcement has centred on how much it’s like the way in which BuzzFeed and Vice are doing all their own creative work now and how it’s the end of agencies, or something like that. There’s some merit to that argument, given that the group will be placed pretty much where all their big clients are and where the talent lives.

Except, I suspect it’s going to be hard for a small group of 12 people to do both the very creative advertorial work that ad agencies do e.g. understanding brands and briefs, creating clear propositions, media strategy and such and make fundamental improvements to the platform, which require editorial prototyping, workflow improvements, DevOps and such. But hell, it’s all digital right? I do wonder how separate the brand content and platform development teams are at places like Vice and BuzzFeed.

It sounds interesting and I am hopefully for what Bezos can add to the Washington Post, but it’s going to be interesting to see if they can pull off both an integrated creative offering and a platform improvement agenda with such a small team.