Martin Baron on WaPo’s Future: Today, the Nation. Tomorrow, the World.

"Our strategy is to become a true national news organization and maybe even international over time."

Brian Lamb‘s hourlong interview with Washington Post’s Martin Baron, airing on C-Span Sunday, begins with a [mental] image of middle school-aged Baron, Florida resident, son of Israeli immigrants, developing a burgeoning interest in the news and journalism. Through high school and then college, that interest doesn’t let up. Skip a few decades, and we have in front of us the executive editor of the Post, describing how the publication has been changed by the Graham-to-Bezos ownership transition:

First of all, we changed our strategy. The strategy in the previous era was articulated as for and about Washington. And of course, while there are really important national things happening in Washington, given that it is the capital of the country, we did not see ourselves as a national news organization, a true national news organization.

Now, under Jeff Bezos, our strategy is to become a true national news organization and maybe even international over time… We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves in a digital era and to reach many more people, millions of people we haven’t been able to reach before.

Competition between The Washington Post and The New York Times for paper-of-record status has been lively this fall as the Post surpassed the New York Times in U.S. online uniques in October. Imagine what it could look like if the two publications were competing for both national and international hearts and minds (or eyeballs, at least).

In an earlier part of the interview, Lamb asked Baron to expand on his comments in a Wall Street Journal piece a few weeks back, in which Baron stated that analytics may factor into employee performance reviews sometime in the future. “Anybody swallow hard that you know in our business when they read that?” asked Lamb. Baron framed it as a learning opportunity, a chance to better understand audience engagement.

They probably did swallow hard and maybe I swallowed hard when I said it. But, that’s just a reality. And I think it’s an important reality and the reason is that we need to know how people are reading our information. We need to know how many people are reading us. We need to know how they’re coming to us.

And I don’t think there’s anything terribly radical about it, no matter how that sounds. The reality is that when…those of us who have been in this industry for a long time…we were taught journalism that said, how does this work when people read newspapers?

We were taught essentially how did people read newspapers. Well now, yes, they continue to read newspapers, but more people are reading on, on digital devices. And so we need to understand how are they reading on digital devices. And it is comparable to what we learned in terms of how do they read newspapers. We need to know how they are reading us.

The full episode of Q&A airs on C-Span Sunday, Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. ET.