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How will Amazon’s Bezos change The Washington Post?

August 8, 2013

By Bill Rigby

Aug 7 (Reuters) – Technology and media circles are abuzz at how e-commerce wunderkind Jeff Bezos plans to modernize The Washington Post, a money-losing bastion of the old economy.

Among the top predictions: the man who transformed retailing will want to wean the venerable paper off its print edition; expand the Post’s real-time content for a Twitter generation; share Amazon’s near-unparalleled data on online buyers; and devise novel avenues to sell anything from books to smartphones to the Post’s half a million readers.

The founder and CEO of Amazon.com Inc hasn’t given much away since he struck a deal to buy the 135-year-old paper for $250 million. But he did tell employees on Monday that they will have to “invent” and “experiment” as the Internet revolutionizes the news business.

Although Bezos, not Amazon, is buying the Post, it is widely expected that he will in some way ‘Amazon-ify’ the news business, bringing across strategies imprinted on the company he founded in a garage 19 years ago.

One thing is clear: the famed innovator is bringing enormous street cred to bear on a problem that has baffled newspaper owners for over a decade: how to reverse the ebb of advertisers to other media.

“Amazon realized information travels much faster as a digital object rather than a physical object, and now Amazon is a world leader in e-books,” said Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, a popular online content sharing platform. “The analogy holds true for newspapers. Bezos knows that transformation incredibly well and he can help them navigate that transition.”

The first casualty of this shift will likely be newspapers themselves. Bezos remarked to a German paper last year that printed news would largely disappear in 20 years.

Bezos could emulate Netflix Inc CEO Reed Hastings, said Levie, transforming a physical distribution network into a streaming service that adapts to customers’ choices. That means more real-time news delivered via PCs, tablets and phones.

Readers can already get the Post on Amazon’s Kindle – as well as onApple Inc’s iPad and other devices powered by Google Inc – but a closer tie-up seems likely.

One idea would be for the Post to offer news via a branded tablet, perhaps given away with a one-year subscription, much as phone companies subsidize handsets, said Thomas Russo, a partner of the Gardner Russo & Gardner investment firm, one of the biggest Washington Post Co shareholders. Amazon for a long time sold its Kindle e-readers at cost, effectively giving away a device through which buyers then access its online trove.

“With technology being what it is, that would not be financially crippling,” said Russo, adding that by moving readers off expensive printed papers, “You would have re-oriented your cost structure.” Read more at Reuters.

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