Photo by Andrys Basten, 9/6/12
Jeff Bezos often has a gleam in his eye.
Jeff Bezos, News-media Magnate for our Digital Times
When the first news came in my email early Monday that the Washington Post Co. had sold their newspaper division to Jeff Bezos (not to Amazon), I thought it was April 1. This includes not ony the newspaper but its website, several affiliated newspapers and a printing operation in Gaitherburg.
NOT included: The Headquarters, although the building has been for sale since February; Foreign Policy magazine, the websites Slate and the Root, WaPo Labs digital development operation or Post Co.-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria.
The Washington Post folks would know most about it, though there are things they woudn't be able to say, but some interesting things from the WaPo newspaper:
' Bezos, 49, 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, as the publicly traded Washington Post Co. is obligated to do now. As such, he will be able to experiment with the paper without the pressure of showing an immediate return on any investment. Indeed, Bezos’s history of patient investment and long-term strategic thinking made him an attractive buyer, [Post publisher Katherine] Weymouth said. '
It was interesting to see that their talks broke down for awhile.
The management team for Washington Post Co., during annual budget discussions late last year "talked about whether [The Washington Post Co.] was the right place to house The Post ...If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for The Post."
What the Post people would most appreciate about this (and it must have been responsible for a pretty quick decision on their part) is the decision by Bezos that "management and operation will continue without disruption after the sale." NO layoffs among the 2,000 employees. & At least for now. Bezos stays in Seattle, and existing management will continue to run it. Bezos says, "I have a fantastic day job that I love." :-)
The Washington Post's Paul Farhi adds that in an interview, Bezos said,
' I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain, and it will require experimentation...
values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners. '
You know he'll have ideas for the transition from print to digital-based reading and probably be fairly innovative.
Some similarities in outlook
Bezos told Fortune magazine last year, "The three big ideas at Amazon are long-term thinking, customer obsession, and willingness to invent."And in Bezos' letter to employees of The Washington Post yesterday:
' The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.
The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business...We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about -- and working backwards from there... '
The Washington Post story that I've quoted just snippets from is a very long, very-detailed one, and, considering that they were writing about themselves, I found it a very interesting read.
This story has received so much interest that there are over 4,000 reactions in the Comments section of that article (as of yesterday).
Here are some Reactions by people in the business
Also, Tim Carmody wrote, for niemanlab.org, an intro to his interesting take on Bezos' interest in this (and I agree with it). The intro has a link to the article. [End of update]
Thanks to info-digger Edward Boyhan for the earliest alert yesterday, by a few seconds. Even then, I'm writing about it a day late after finally getting to read some of the details.
In Chrome browser, the header photo was not taking that much space, but in Firefox, the Bezos pic was huge, so I've scaled it down.
The story itself does really mean a sea change, and word on the Web is quite positive overall, about Bezos' stewardship in an area new to him except for the technological aspects involved in helping the 'paper' survive.
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