How The Washington Post built a publishing platform accidentally on purpose
The Elizabethan dramaturge John Webster gave one of his characters these immortal words: “There’s nothing of so infinite vexation/As man’s own thoughts.” Of course, he was lucky enough to live nearly 400 years before the first content management system was invented. Learn More
In early 2013, The Washington Post found itself in a particularly vexing situation: The newsroom employed two different content management systems to publish two different websites. Each site happened to be called washingtonpost.com, and the exhausted designers and site engineers had to make sure readers couldn’t see a difference.
It was a problem long in the making. Since 1995, when The Post first launched its website, the company had a web CMS that published online-only content alongside print content, which it received from the print-only CMS. Following Clay Christensen’s principles of disruptive innovation, the web newsroom was established separate from the main print newsroom. For more than a decade, the ink-stained wretches downtown threw their stories over the wall, and over the river, to the web editors in Arlington, Virginia.
A full platform was needed, and these tools became an integrated suite, one component at a time.
The metered paywall came in 2013. It was followed by a video system (code-named Goldfish), scheduling and workflow management tool (Websked), fully redesigned mobile app (Rainbow), quiz and poll tools (Story Tools), analytics dashboard (Loxodo), headline testing tool (Bandito), A/B testing tool (Darwin), and others.
Eventually, the platform got a new name: Arc Publishing.