Washington Post sails up the Amazon

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The internet buys a venerable news institution…

The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

If you ask me, Bezos is just too old to play the 12th Doctor. Uh, no, Peter Capaldi is the wrong man to own such an institution. Uh, no…

Joking aside, this, I think , is going to be a fun ride. Vanity project or a change for a radical reinvention of an old institution?

Update 1: Lovely tweet from Dan Barker:

People who joked about the Washington Post sale also joked about…: pic.twitter.com/DSxx8vkRKl— dan barker (@danbarker) August 5, 2013

Update 2: From a letter to Washington Post staff by Bezos:

There will of course be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.

That’s the approach too few people have taken: start with reader need and work backwards, rather than trying to figure out how to make the kind of news you want to do become profitable. Like I said, interesting ride ahead…

amazonjeff bezosnational newspaperswashington post

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.