Washington Post Closes the Express Lane

above: the last edition

Express, a free daily tabloid published by The Washington Post and meant for the young commuter crowd, has printed its last edition today.

The Post says WiFi in the Metro has made it easier for riders to read on their phones instead, and falling ridership on Metro hasn’t helped matters. But at the time, Express was a solid bet for a print-focused industry whose business model’s reckoning was still five years away. You could read some stuff on a phone at the time, but it was a cumbersome and slow experience. Express offered short news summaries, fun gossip, and puzzles that shortened your ride. Most of us have shared a seat with a copy at some point.


From the DCist story on the shuttering:

An article published in the Post also cited declining circulation, from its peak of 190,000 daily readers in 2007 to 130,000 this year. The publication lists a decrease in Metro ridership as a partial cause of the drop.

Unlike the Post, which relies on subscriptions and digital advertising in addition to print ads, print advertising is “our entire source of revenue,” Dan Caccavaro, the executive editor of Express, tells DCist. “It’s been a rough half a year for us,” he says, listing Metro’s partial shutdown and the government shutdown before that among the causes. “I don’t know that our performance recently necessarily reflected what it would be going forward.” He points to a spate of recent hiring as evidence that the decision to shutter Express must have “been made pretty recently.”

“On the editorial side, we’ve been really fired up lately and doing some of our best work,” says Caccavaro. “We’ve done more original work than we’ve ever done.”

In addition to repackaging journalism from the Post and the Associated Press for the tabloid-sized paper, Express also had its own stable of writers who reported on local D.C. arts, food, and news. The paper is known for its playful covers and pithy headlines.


Unlike their colleagues at The Washington Post, staffers from Express are not a part of a union. Express employs 20 journalists and about 75 people who distribute the paper at Metro stations and in newspaper boxes, per the Post.

Caccavaro confirms to DCist that all 20 journalists lost their jobs, though doesn’t know what will happen to the “hawkers” who distribute the papers in the mornings. (“I’ve received more emails about our hawkers over the years than anything else,” he says. “Just absolutely the nicest emails you can imagine.”)


From yesterday’s Washingtonian comes more statistics:

Express was part of a wave of similar tabloids in other cities. Red Eye in Chicago, AM New York, *tbt in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Metro all over the world—they were all predicated on the idea that the best way to reach young people not interested in your print newspaper was to launch a separate, more fun, and, most important, free print newspaper. And for a while it worked. 2007 was Express‘s best year for circulation, Executive Editor Dan Caccavaro told the Post, with the tabloid’s circulation at around 190,000. Average circulation in the second quarter of 2019 was 125,944 in Express’ most recent report with the Alliance for Audited Media, down 16 percent from the same period in 2015. Excluding Post Marketplace, the Washington Post‘s print average weekday circulation fell even harder: from 382,377 in the second quarter of 2019 to 237,638 this year—a 37 percent drop.

Among all those dropping numbers is one rising:

But the Post has something Express never managed to wrangle–an enormous online readership of its own. Almost 84 million people visited the Post last month, a rise of more than 16 percent over the previous year. Much of that audience is national—though Express content eventually got published on the Post‘s site after stays on other URLs—and therefore presumably uninterested in the infotainment needs of DC-area commuters.


above: Ben Claassen

From Mike Rhode and his ComicsDC site comes information directly pertaining to us:

With one day notice, the Washington Post is cancelling the free Express newspaper.
The content of the papers only partially overlapped. The Express ran Baltimore cartoonist Ben Claassen III‘s illustrations for its advice column and two comic strips, Pooch Cafe and Pearls Before Swine. Pooch does not run in the Post.