washingtonpost.com front page, Aug. 5, 2013

washingtonpost.com front page, Aug. 5, 2013

The Washington Post announced this afternoon that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, will buy the venerable paper and a number of other Post Co. newspapers for $250 million.

For any D.C. denizen, and for journalists across the world, this will come as a shock with a mix of apprehension.

I’m most certainly in that camp. Granted, it’s not surprising that The Post would need drastic change to survive the Internet age, like other newspapers across the country.

But the fact that the Graham family would sell the paper, and to the guy who founded Amazon to boot, seems just a little bizarre.

But let’s put this deal in perspective. The reporters and editors of The Post will still produce incredible journalism. All of the top management people are staying, including Katharine Weymouth, the fourth generation installment of the Graham family, who has owned The Post for 80 years. Bezos said he won’t even be involved in the day-to-day workings of the newspapers he just bought. And to clarify, Bezos is the sole owner of The Post, not Amazon. It seems The Post’s tradition of proprietary ownership is alive and well.

The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.

– Jeff Bezos

Who owns the company won’t change the paper’s reporting excellence.

Especially over the past four decades, The Washington Post has earned a worldwide reputation for tough, penetrating, insightful, and indispensable journalism. With the investment by Mr. Bezos, that tradition will continue.

-Katharine Weymouth

To be blunt, not all of Bezos’s investments have worked (see Pets.com and Kozmo.com).

However, according to the Washington Post:

Amazon’s sales have increased almost tenfold since 2004 and its stock price has quadrupled in the past five years.

It’s easy to see why. Bezos founded a company that has revolutionized more than one media industry. Just think about “Earth’s Largest Bookstore,” the Kindle, Kindle Singles (Amazon’s own brand of journalism).

In naming Bezos its “Businessperson of the Year” in 2012, Fortune called him “the ultimate disrupter…[who] has upended the book industry and displaced electronic merchants” while pushing into new businesses, such as TV and feature film production.

People much smarter and more well-informed than I will bring new facts to light and new analysis over the next few days. Take those predictions, and my own, on the future of D.C.’s hometown paper with a grain of salt. If somebody had the secret potion to make journalism profitable, we haven’t heard from them.

I’m optimistic that Jeff Bezos is just what The Post and affiliated newspapers need to thrive, not just survive.

Full disclosure: I am a daily print subscriber to The Post as well as an avid Kindle user, despite that one time Amazon failed to send me a book after I paid for it (don’t worry, I got a refund). 

Sources

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