Wash Post Under New Management
Because of my journalism background, I was very intrigued, saddened, but mostly excited to hear that founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeffrey Bezos, recently purchased The Washington Post. The Graham family until August 2013 owned the paper for four generations.
But now the helm of one of the few remaining traditional print newspapers has been turned over to the man behind the success of Internet giant Amazon.com. His complete success at turning a start-up into a company making $61 billion in sales in the last year gives me confidence he may be able to save the dying paper. However, in a recent interview, the first since the announcement of the sale, he explains he has no big plans for the future of the paper that brought us Woodward and Bernstein.
Bezos’ philosophy is one he developed at Amazon.com, “[p]ut the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” He sees his main role as advisory, suggesting to established paper leadership how the paper might evolve.
Patience is what he should be emphasizing. His comments during his interview, with none other than The Washington Post, make it clear he has no clear solution for how to save the paper, or for that matter the industry. In fact, it seems there are no immediate goals at all. Having amassed a fortune through Amazon he has the capital to invest in the company, a major factor in the Graham family’s decision in selling to Bezos, but as competition continues to skyrocket the paper continues to decline.
Luckily he does acknowledge that in a world of aggregating, the old model of investigative journalism no longer works. His ideals, not surprisingly, lean toward the electronic citing the Kindle as an example of how the written word no longer needs to be on paper. None of which is new or very comforting for the news industry.
However, he sees it as vitally important that readers be at the centerpiece and not advertisers, a concept that Bezos with his business background may actually turn into something successful for the newspaper.
News has been available electronically, and even on the Kindle, for years. Meanwhile, advertising continues to drain away and revenue steams for many of the big newspapers are severely depleted.
It will be interesting to see if Bezos can accomplish what seems like a losing battle, saving the newspaper industry. I’m aware that he has taken on only one of many still existing newspapers in the country; however, the problems are the same for all of them. The more time passes the more likely there will be little to no investigative journalism in print in a few years. Hopefully, his solution will be widely applicable.
Overall, Bezos claims his contribution will be his willingness to experiment. Hopefully, this will be one experiment with a successful ending for all.
Check out the Post generated video.