Alden Blethen bought the failed Seattle Daily Times in 1896. Our family’s multigenerational stewardship is based on his last will and testament from 1915, which specified his desire that The Seattle Times would remain under local Blethen family stewardship and as a public-service organization.
Family businesses are uniquely challenged in ways that traditionally structured companies are not. Generational transitions in leadership are complex and require strong communication, passionate belief in the company’s purpose, and elegant structures to avoid disruption and distraction.
What makes The Seattle Times so different that we are still a family business controlled by the fourth generation and in transition to the fifth generation? Simply put, each generation has embraced Alden’s vision and its two pillars — family stewardship and journalism, both of which nurture, build and connect our community. Each generation has not only embraced Alden’s vision and values but also added to and refined our family governance structure and procedures.
Our governance is based on the family’s commitment to five principles:
Public service through quality, trusted journalism
The tradition of a Blethen family member publisher
- A mission-centric and family-friendly workplace
Generational transitions tend to be long processes with control gradually transitioning as the ascending generation gains operating and governance experience — and in our case, an appreciation of our public-service obligations and high-quality, independent information and journalism. After all, the free press is the only business mentioned in, and protected by, the U.S. Constitution.
After a lengthy period of engagement for our fourth generation, we assumed full leadership in 1985 — 37 years and counting. Our governing Blethen Corporation Board of Directors includes five family segments, two of which are members of the fifth generation.
Our full transition to the next generation is still a few years out. But unlike prior transitions, it will take place during the most tumultuous and uncertain time the American free press system has ever had to endure.
America is at a crossroad. Our most trusted source of news and information — the local free press system – is on life support.
Civic strife fueled by fake news, irresponsible social media and massive local newspaper disinvestment by rapacious absentee opportunists have destroyed much of our once-vaunted local free press. Our fragile democracy will continue to wither without a rejuvenation of the local free press as the essential platform for positive civic engagement and healthy local communities.
In this fraught era, we are proud The Seattle Times has become a national model for business innovation and public-service journalism. Your support through subscriptions and direct investment in our projects has empowered our success and innovation. You have enabled The Seattle Times to be one of the rare newspapers able to avoid newsroom cuts in the last few years and, even more rare, actually add to the staff. We currently have a newsroom staff of 170 people. Twenty-seven of these positions are funded through community support.
We are also grateful for the free press support and advocacy of our congressional delegation – the most free press-savvy delegation in the country. Our gratitude is reflected in our passionate pursuit of the high-quality journalism and community engagement you deserve. On behalf of our fourth and fifth generations — thank you!
Frank, Will and John Blethen
Fourth generation stewards
Leader in innovation and audience reach
In these difficult times, one of the few positives resides in the top 15 major metro markets, in which all but three newspapers are owned by local families or a local foundation the family created — including The Seattle Times. Your locally owned Seattle Times has been one of the nation’s most innovative and progressive newspapers since 1985. Ten years ago, we invested heavily in our digital infrastructure and have now become one of the country’s most successful print-digital hybrid models.
We reach 2 million people in the DMA
As an evolving hybrid print and digital journalism, public-service organization, The Seattle Times has developed a record audience in the 17-county DMA of western Washington. The print portion of our audience remains very strong and is complemented by our development of multiple digital distribution channels.
Our flagship website seattletimes.com has a record 81,000 subscriptions. Other major channels include our family of 13 digital email newsletters with a total audience of 1.6 million recipients; our digital Print Replica edition, a digital mirror of the printed edition; and our digital news alerts, which are extremely popular and never fail to attract great traffic.
This evolution has resulted in a record audience of 2 million in the DMA. Actual monthly digital page views on seattletimes.com are 29.7 million.
We reach all age demographics
Multiple distribution channels are essential, as is relevant content — the two go hand in hand. Our excellent reach in every age cohort validates our extensive focus on relevant content. Age cohorts are listed in order of Seattle Times reach of print and digital.