Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has purchased The Washington Post, one of the largest U.S. newspapers still standing after years of print-media implosions. He paid $250 million for it, a mere fraction of what the publication may have earned a decade ago.
This is potentially good news for:
Washington Post Staffers: If Bezos really means to keep his hands off the newspaper’s operations (“The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners,” he wrote in a public memo about the acquisition), and if he’s willing to keep financing an operation that’s seen its share of revenue drag over the past few years, it could allow Post reporters to do what they do best without needing to worry about the bottom line.
The “Traditional” Newspaper Industry: It’s no secret that the Internet has blown a hole beneath the newspaper industry’s proverbial waterline. The old (and previously reliable) models of advertising have crumbled; the news cycle has accelerated to the point where it’s simply impossible for an ink-and-paper product to keep up with what’s going on; people are more likely to check Twitter, Facebook, or a favorite blog for the latest information. If Bezos finances experimentation at the Post, allowing its editors to throw money at new initiatives or ideas, the newspaper could stumble on a model that successfully updates “old media” with the right combination of social and online tools. Other newspapers would emulate that model, with varying degrees of success—and at least they’d be trying something, rather than simply waiting to die.
Amazon: Bezos-the-individual bought the Post, rather than Amazon. But that doesn’t meant the online retailer couldn’t benefit from its CEO owning a prominent newspaper—imagine all the devices in the Kindle portfolio with a built-in Post app, one that feeds all the latest information to the home- or lock-screen, with features surpassing other newspapers’ offerings for those devices.
That wouldn’t necessarily make the Kindle e-reader or Kindle Fire more of a competitor to peoples’ other mobile devices (especially since Kindle devices are more like vending machines for Amazon e-products, rather than “regular” tablets) but it could increase the frequency with which people look at their Kindles, which in turn would boost the opportunities for advertising, sales, etc. In short, if played right, the Post could make the Kindle a more versatile device—an important goal, to say the least, for Amazon.
Or maybe Bezos simply wants to play Citizen Kane with his new toy. After all, this is a CEO who invests in space exploration and 10,000-year clocks; he’s been known to make purchases on whimsy, rather than for their value to his other concerns.