Nov 23, 2021 - Technology

Washington Post taps its former CMO to lead tech division

Photo credit: Jackie Hicks, Photo courtesy of The Washington Post

The Washington Post has hired Miki King — the company's former chief marketing officer, who most recently served as the President of Genius Media Group — to run The Post's Arc XP software arm.

Why it matters: The hire underscores The Post's commitment to growing its software arm as a significant revenue stream to support its journalism.

  • The Post currently makes most of its money from ads and subscriptions, but software sales are increasingly becoming a third major business line for the company.

Catch up quick: The Washington Post launched Arc Publishing in 2015 as an in-house tech division that built and licensed publishing software to other media companies.

  • Today, it serves a slew of businesses in addition to media and entertainment publishers, including sports teams, cryptocurrency companies, and financial services firms.
  • Many of the clients it serves are increasingly focused on transactions between businesses and consumers. This year Arc XP added added e-commerce and video hosting capabilities.
  • Earlier this year, Arc Publishing rebranded to Arc XP to reflect its broader focus. Arc XP's products are cloud-based and rely heavily on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Details: King, who starts officially on Nov. 29, says her goal in the next year is to accelerate the growth of Arc XP's sales team and to grow the business globally.

  • Arc XP currently serves customers across 28 countries and most U.S. states. King says Arc XP is looking to expand more into Latin America and Western Europe, as well as Africa. It currently serves clients in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Korea and the UAE, in addition to hundreds of local news sites and businesses in America.
  • Much of King's experience at Genius, which was recently acquired by Santa Monica-based MediaLab, was working with enterprise clients. That focus will translate to her new role at The Post.
  • "The goal for Arc XP is to really to help brands optimize their digital presence," King said. She noted that developing products that support everything from cryptocurrency to sports betting is going to be inevitable.
  • "We're in the very early stages on betting and gaming," she said. "It's a space that there could be an opportunity for us, but conversations have been preliminary to-date."
  • King will report to both publisher and CEO Fred Ryan and chief information officer Shailesh Prakash. Scot Gillespie will remain CTO and GM of Arc XP.

By the numbers: Currently, Arc XP's technology is licensed to over 1,900 sites, up from about 1,500 in April, per The Post.

  • King says she expects Arc XP to bring in $100 million in revenue "in the next 3-5 years."
  • There are around 250 people that work for Arc XP alone, per King. For context, The Post has roughly 1,000 journalists.
  • "The Post has really doubled down on expanding corporate functions dedicated to Arc XP, including in human resources, legal, finance and analysis roles," she said.

The Washington Post's owner Jeff Bezos has thrown his weight behind both Arc XP and The Post's ad tech division, Zeus Technology.

  • "As we moved from news publishers to enterprise, that was very much of interest and supported by Jeff Bezos," King said. "He has been very much involved in every large strategic decision related to Arc XP."
  • Washington Post chief revenue officer Joy Robins told Axios in September that Zeus Technology work will hit nine figures in revenue "easily" next year.

The big picture: Several media companies, including Vox Media and Minute Media, have launched tech businesses as a way to fund journalism in recent years.

  • But King says those firms are not The Post's biggest competitors. "I often do think our greatest competition is the trend of organizations that to want to go at it alone," she said.
  • She said Arc XP also sees opportunities in providing strategic insight and advisory services to companies building their own software.

What to watch: While it's long been rumored that one day The Post might spin out Arc XP, King says that's not in the cards for now.

  • "As of today, my role is not one tied to an exit strategy," she said. "The conversation with our leadership team has really been one about how can we accelerate growth."
  • "Arc is well on track to be a $100 million company, I don't think that's a path to a spin-off, but we'll see how things unfold."
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