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Amazon's Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

#j202 media analysis

Garth Beyer

on 19 September 2013

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Transcript of Amazon's Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post
Points of Discussion
1. Jeff Bezos biography
2. The Washington Post History
3. What The Washington Post thinks about Bezos' purchase
4. How will Bezos handle the paper
5. We why think Bezos will succeed with bringing the Post into a golden age (plus counterpoints)
6. Amazon vs. The Post
7. Running The Post as a businessman

1. Jeff Bezos
2. The Washington Post... a history
Birthed in 1877 with limited circulation. Post trades hands several times before finding the Graham family
3. What the Post thinks about the change in ownership
4. How Bezos will handle the paper
“If we figure out a new golden era at The Post . . . that will be due to the ingenuity and inventiveness and experimentation of the team at The Post. I’ll be there with advice from a distance. If we solve that problem, I won’t deserve credit for it.”
Major stories and earned the Post reputation/ family history- expansion due to key acquisitions and Watergate
End of Graham ownership to present
Current history / financial troubles- Post becomes incorporated and sells stock to make money, Struggling since 2,000.
Bezos purchases the Post
Did look into negative:
“He’s everything we were looking for — a business leader with a track record of entrepreneurship who believes in our values and cares about journalism, and someone who was willing to pay a fair price to our shareholders,” she said.
Publisher Katharine Weymouth,
In it for the long haul...
Does he have a plan?
Bezos has not mentioned any plans, but this isn’t surprising. He is a quiet guy that won’t even say how many Kindles Amazon has sold.
Mixed signals: Bezos keeps saying he will be keeping his distance and that he doesn’t want to be too involved with the paper.
Source: http://loymachedo.com/miscellaneous-stuff/president-obama-versus-governor-romney-debate-analysis-by-loy-machedo-part-5/
“[Bezos] will take the company private, meaning he will not have to report quarterly earnings to shareholders or be subjected to investors’ demands for ever-rising profits.”
5. Why Bezos will succeed
He is unpredictable, creative, and inventive.
I have hope he will bring a different mind frame to the journalism business.
He will be able to look outside of the inverted pyramid.
“If it’s hopeless – I would feel sorry for you guys – but I wouldn’t want to join you.” (From NYT)
Bezos is fearless, willing to take things to the extreme. In 1999, Amazon was going down, burdened with loss after loss. Bezos had to cut costs.
In a New York Times article, it was stated,
“Amazon had never indulged employees with Silicon Valley perks like massages or sushi chefs. Just about the only thing that workers received free was aspirin. So the aspirin went.”
“The cost-cutting — including layoffs — and promises of future profit helped Amazon escape the jaws of doom.”
From the same article,
A man not afraid to make cuts may not be afraid to break ethical boundaries.
James Marcus, who was Amazon employee No. 55. said, "“Jeff may be outwardly goofy, with that trademark laugh, but he’s a very tough guy. If he goes even halfway through with his much-vaunted reinvention of journalism, there is no way he’s not going to break some eggs.”
Will taking his digital mastermindness to the paper industry burn the industry down- Digital brilliance- ability to put consumer first
6. Amazon vs. The Post
“We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he told the newspaper. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”
To the Portland Business Journal, Bezos said,
Amazon was built as a large business venture that allowed Bezos to run experiment after experiment to find out what works. Why would he run the paper any different? This raises some ethical flags.
Will he ignore standard journalism ethics to produce more likeable content?
How will he treat his employees, the writers?
Will he try to hire more freelancers and devalue the credibility of journalists?
Whether it was purely intentional or not, Amazon has been killing local and small businesses for years.
Running the paper as a business man
Bezos told reporters the paper should focus on “Delivering important, compelling stories to its readers. If it does that, advertisers will come."
How he is taking away from local stuff, globalizes everything he touches. In a New York Times article, Bezos said, “It should be as easy to get a subscription to The Post as it is to buy diapers on Amazon.”
With all the Bezos is doing, will he have time for the Post?
CEO of Amazon
Blue Origin
Post owns Gazette, southern Maryland papers, Slate, etc,.
In an Atlantic Wire article, Bezos said,
Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said,
The Post reports on itself
How Post has been declining
Discussed Bezos successes with Amazon as well as its monopolizing effect
Discussed Bezos’s failed investments.

Realistic and confident in Bezos.
Not afraid to analyze him and also paint him as the successful businessman he is.
The Post did not try to make it overly optimistic in order to persuade its readers.
Good PR:
Did not just come and buy The Post – The Post sought him out.
Journalism experience
Enemy of print
Lobbying efforts
Hides profits
Photograph: Murdo Macleod
In a scholarly article by Richard J. Barber, "Within the past fifty years the United States has witnessed the disappearance, primarily through consolidation, of more than 800 daily newspapers."
The question arises: is it ethical to purchase a paper that may lead to further consolidation of the newspaper industry.
Focus on writing good news stories to get advertisers to make profit…not for the readers.
Your opinion?
Thoughts on privatizing the paper?
Aggressive business style will affect any journalistic ethics?
Through experimentation, will he break ethical boundaries?
Full transcript