Is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the Washington Post going to allow him to place the paper in your living room, or on your Kindle, or some other mobile device?
Bezos could attach the brand (if not the institution) to his ‘free cash flow‘ model, one which aims to be where you are and win your loyalty with great service and ease of use. You may already be streaming movies online, downloading books to your Kindle, and having groceries shipped to your home. With logistics, constant innovation, and by eschewing percentage margins, he’s kept Amazon elastic, and focused on you, the customer.
On the other hand, Bezos may also not be all that interested, or even able, to merge what he does best with the Washington Post and its obligations. It could end up little more than a vanity purchase, one with a rather minimal $250 million price-tag, ending-up on the ash-heap like Newsweek.
The Post’s acquisition is apparently part of a longer, slower process, an old media model that’s been dying, and just about to die, for quite some time. The more the old revenue streams and the old models dry-up (the online streams haven’t replaced them), the worse the journalism tends to be. It’s been a death-spiral for many with skin in the game.
Ross Douthat’s answer is to suggest that the new technology has helped create a nationalized market for media outlets, and thus, the Washington Post couldn’t compete with Politico:
‘Today, though, it’s Politico rather than The Post that dominates the D.C. conversation, Politico rather than The Post that’s the must-read for Beltway professionals and politics junkies everywhere, and Politico rather than The Post that matches the metabolism of the Internet.’
He finishes with:
‘What Bezos can deliver, in other words, is a newspaper war, with clear and pressing stakes. For The Post to thrive again, Politico must lose.’
Is Politico the Post’s real competition? To some degree, perhaps.
Here’s Bill Virgin, discussing the failure of one of Seattle’s two dailies:
‘To put all the blame, or even the bulk of it, on those factors is not only too convenient, but also downright deceptive. It obscures a long-standing truth about this business: American newspapers have been and continue to be, as a sector, the worst-run of any industry in this country.
The Internet may have helped weaken the precipice upon which the newspaper industry was standing, and the recession may have given it a helpful stomp to send us into the chasm. But it was the industry itself that walked out onto a ledge of crumbling shale and stood waiting for it to collapse.’
What is it that journalists create of real value to people? Facts and information? Checks on politicians, local events, and corruption? Reinforcement of a political ideology and a worldview?
What is it that journalists’ seek? Truth? To practice their craft of writing and offer a public service? Career advancement? Influence?
Addition: Douthat has a follow-up here.
***Douthat mentions the British comedy ‘Yes, Prime Minister‘ as a source for who reads the Newspapers.
Here’s a good American version.
Related On This Site: Jeff Bezos, Founder Of Amazon, Acquires The Washington Post
A Free Lunch?-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘How To Get Ahead On Facebook Without Really Trying’
Malcolm Gladwell argues here that apart from the information/journalism divide, the technology still ultimately costs something as well…”Free” is a utopian vision, and I suspect Gladwell knows this pretty well: From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”