Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Arc Publishing: The Washington Post's Software Startup

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 20, 2017

Harry McCracken has written an excellent profile of the Washington Post's Arc Publishing business which sells access to the same technology that is used to publish the online newspaper. 

[Arc Publishing] allows other news organizations to use the Post's tools for writers and editors. ...It's like a high-end version of Squarespace or WordPress.com, tailored to solve the content problems of a particular industry.

The Washington Post Is A Software Company Now

Revenues could start adding up to a substantial stream. Small customers pay from $10,000 per month to $150,000 for large customers and payment depends on bandwidth. Get a top story and it will cost you but Arc makes more in revenues.

McCracken adds:

By offloading the creation of publishing tools and the hosting of sites, media companies can concentrate on the journalism itself rather than the technical requirements of getting it in front of readers.

Foremski's Take: It looks like a smart move by the Washington Post to sell the same tools it uses. But does it know what it takes to become an enterprise software company?

It takes a substantial engineering effort to maintain and improve any set of commercial software tools. It is not a trivial task.

To make it a business you need to have all sorts of support people, you need customer success engineers, you need a sales force and you need marketing staff. It is a big commitment.  It requires a very big investment.

The management of the Washington Post understands how to run a media company but not a tech company. 

The Washington Post could release its tools as open source software projects and let others help improve them rather than try to commercialize them itself and have to make a very substantial investment in building the business.

Also: in charging by bandwidth it implies the value of the platform is in shifting bits from place to place rather than in the tools and platform expertise.

Spin Arc Publishing off and let it raise money rather than become a constant distraction to management. Media disruption requires full attention and Jeff Bezos cannot stop it.

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