I was drawn to the usage of the word, “scale” appearing in the Washington Post (March 30) article that came under the title, “I worked for Jared Kushner. He’s the wrong businessman to reinvent government.” It reads:

“Why would you buy a newspaper if you expect it to scale the way software does? Why assume that media and software have the same risk profile and dynamics? Kushner would argue that because Gawker started with one person, that meant you didn’t need head count to scale a media company. The Internet makes media more scalable, of course — distribution is unlimited and gained at little marginal cost. But that doesn’t mean a media company is just like Uber.”

Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary provides definitions of “scale” as a verb:

1.to climb to the top of sth very high and steep

2.to remove scales from a fish

  1. to remove tartar from the teeth by scraping.

  2. to change the size of sth.

To me none of the above definitions seems to exactly fit the nuance of “scale” used in the above quote. It seems to me that “scale” in the above paragraph have something to do with making profit and “scalable” means profitable, but I’m not sure.

What does “scale” and “scalable” mean? Are the words, “scale” and "scalabe" used in such a way very often?

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    The use is common in business. Here, scale means to change the range of measurement (that is the scale or size of the item as in #4.) If I scale a home project to a business process, can I expect workers to put in 18 hour days like I did? No, I cannot scale that labor directly. However, the "Internet makes media more scalable," because computers can process 100 orders as easily as one. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 20:53
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    It's roughly your #4. It's a bit of business/techno jargon. But as with fish, it often stinks.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 21:27
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    Scale as used here is related to size, but not exactly that. It refers to how well something will work when you try to do it at a very different size. For example, business methods that work when a business is just you and a friend operating out of your garage might not scale to a multi-national corporation with thousands of employees.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 21:30
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    Full article available here oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/03/… The paragraph before the OP's quote is also significant namely " But news media doesn't scale like software. You need people to produce content, at least until artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and sensitive sources are willing to trust a bot. As @fixer1234 says it is related to how something grows relative to another measurement - e.g. staff, hardware, resources.
    – k1eran
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 0:18

1 Answer 1


I believe it means "scale" as in the third meaning listed here:

A graduated range of values forming a standard system for measuring or grading something

And look at the phrasal verbs below:

Scale back / Scale down

Also cfr. Economies of scale or the scale on a map.

Economy of scale means, in very simple terms, that the more you produce, the less your overall costs will be. Imagine that you manage an office: if you have 5 employees you will need 1 secretary and you will produce X. If you have 10 employees you will produce roughly 2X and will need still one secretary, not two. Your unit cost has gone down.

Or as a production process: if my plant costs $1B and produces X, a plant that produces 2X will not cost $2B, and the cost of my products will go down. Therefore I would rather build one giant refinery than many smaller ones (prices not... in scale).

What the author means here is that you cannot expect a media company to grow and be manageable on a larger size (or scale) just like a software company would be. Internet has made it easier for media companies to grow, but they cannot grow at the same pace as software companies.

For more information, check out the Wikipedia page for a scaleup company

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