News & Politics

Here’s the Washington Post‘s Memo on Its Record-Breaking Traffic Month

Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron and managing editor for digital Emilio Garcia-Ruiz sent a memo to staff to note that the Post had nearly 67 million unique visitors to its digital properties in October, squeaking by the New York Times in comScore measurement.


Some interesting points from the memo:

• The Post had seven stories last month that had more than a million unique readers apiece. The top story was Alexandra Petri’s “Famous quotes, the way a woman would have to say them during a meeting.”

• Other top performers: “A quick puzzle to tell whether you know what people are thinking“; “A D.C. cop tried to break up a group of teens. It ended in this impressive dance-off“; “The strange star that has serious scientists talking about an alien megastructure.”

• Both the Capital Weather Gang and the DC Sports Bog doubled their traffic in October.

Here’s the memo:

Your hard work last month resulted in another record performance by The Washington Post and the passing of a significant milestone. For the first time, we surpassed the 60 million total unique visitors metric as determined by comScore, finishing October with 66.9 million.

Our journalism was exclusive, incisive and wide-ranging. Sari Horwitz broke the news that the Justice Department was freeing 6,000 federal prisoners ahead of schedule. The political staff continued to deliver the most balanced and thorough reporting on the debates and the elections, using each event to hone strategy and staffing. And we covered the biggest stories from around the world, from the Oregon community college shootings to Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

We explained to readers why coral gets bleached, whether they should stop eating hot dogs and bacon, how often toddlers shoot people and how many years of life they are losing because of their stressful jobs.

The video staff surpassed its record for starts on our site by more than two million and had more starts than ever on its distribution partner sites.

As is always the case when we have a big month, all parts of the newsroom contributed to the success. We had seven pieces that were each read by more than one million people, according to our internal metrics. The leader was Alexandra Petri’s piece on ComPost that translated famous sentences into how a woman would have to say them during a meeting not to be perceived as “angry, threatening or (gasp!) bitchy.”

The second most read piece, according to our internal metrics, was an interactive by Kevin Schaul of the graphics staff. Kevin used a fun game to illustrate the concept of majority illusion, which leads us to make bad predictions about what people think. This highlighted the impact that innovative, multimedia story forms can have when deployed effectively.

Ana Swanson of Wonkblog delivered two of the top pieces by thinking about multimedia: a post on what people in 1900 thought the year 2000 would look like(they predicted a Roomba-like vacuum), and another one on what American immigrants looked like when they arrived on Ellis Island (interesting headwear).

Sarah Kaplan’s piece for Morning Mix on a strange star/alien megastructure found a big audience as did Emma’s Brown recounting of a Stanford dean’s criticisms of helicopter parenting and how it is ruining a generation of children.

Local’s Perry Stein delivered a double winner. Perry took a video of a dancing cop that was starting to bubble up among Facebook users and found out the story behind it, in what became one of our most-read stories of the month. She and Tim Richardson helped acquire the video, creating the most-viewed video of the month and second highest for the year.

Julie Zauzmer also turned a viral video into strong reporting, following up on the story of the local boy with cerebral palsy who received a blessing from the pope.Her report followed up one of our most popular stories from the previous month with a deeper look at the people involved. The article delivered both in terms of visitors and engagement. The story was a hit on Facebook, and users spent an average of 6 minutes reading it – double the average for other top stories.

Wonkblog, The Fix and Post Politics all delivered strong performances, with high growth month-over-month, particularly on mobile. Our verticals were also buttressed by especially good performances by the Capital Weather Gang, which doubled its traffic, most notably from social, and DC Sports Bog, which more than doubled its traffic, notably from phones and tablets. Finally, Power Post continued its red-hot start, showing a remarkable increase in search traffic and growing its loyal user base – it had the highest percentage growth in return users.

Marty Emilio

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.