Jeff Bezos, the founder of the uber-successful, online, umbrella of a retailer, Amazon, recently bought one of the grand old ladies of newspapers, The Washington Post. In the interest of full disclosure, the WaPo is one of my favorite reads. Like The New York Times and few other newspapers, it’s both a national and a local paper. You don’t have to live in the nation’s capital to benefit from the WaPo’s extensive and in-depth coverage of business, industry, markets, society, and government, and international news.
Bezos paid (some say overpaid) for the privilege of buying the WaPo, about $250 million. Yes, it sounds like a lot. It is a lot! On the other hand, it’s something like 1% of Bezos’ net worth. Take a moment and calculate what you could buy if you cashed in all of your assets. Probably not the WaPo. Hopefully more than a few Big Macs.
There aren’t many of us left who like to read the paper on, well, paper. My 25-year-old son loves to read but favors online resources. I lament his loss of the serendipitous find, a truly interesting and useful piece of news you sometimes happen across, when turning an actual page – something you need or enjoy or can use, but wouldn’t have thought to search for. But that’s a different post.
How will the king of digital marketing change the paper of Pulitzer-winning reporters? The daily that in the 70s broke the Watergate scandal story and published the Pentagon Papers – the ones that surfaced President Johnson’s lies about U.S. military involvement in Vietnam? (Younger readers: Look it up.) I was heartened when the WaPo reported that Bezos assured its staff that for now,
“We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads.”
Will paper newspapers be tomorrow’s nostalgic memory? The only thing I know for sure is that Jeff Bezos knows how to make money, and I don’t mean print it. Which may prove to be the WaPo’s long-term salvation.
What do you think?