Saving the Washington Post—More From Washingtonian Readers

By: Harry Jaffe

How can the Washington Post keep readers and attract new ones? These questions have been confounding the Post for decades. Why, in a growing Washington region that’s both wealthy and well-educated, does the Post lose some 5 percent of its readers every year?

In the June “Post Watch” column in The Washingtonian, I put the question to readers. Dozens replied. Michael from Baltimore, who owns Washington Post Company stock, offered a novel idea:

“My suggestions as a 25 share investor are of course biased, but the entire community needs the Washington Post to continue to grow and serve.

“1. Given that many families never have a newspaper around the house, and students can finish school without ever having a daily paper, I would ask that one day of every school year, or semester, be NEWSPAPER DAY, and that the Post donate a copy for every high school student to take home and discuss with family (if there is any family), and write a brief report on what sections family members find most interesting, and how many times a week or month do they read a newspaper (if at all), and offer a trial subscription for something like $5 for a month to a) increase circulation and b) introduce the concept of a daily paper into homes that heretofore considered only radio and TV as sources of information.”

My take: Mike’s idea has merit. Rather than spend time and money on gimmicks like Post Points, the newspaper could offer partnerships with high schools. The end result would benefit students and help create the community of readers the Post seems to be losing. Maybe Mike should suggest this at the Post Company’s next annual meeting.