Bezos is a man of destiny; he will try to save US journalism

Bezos is a man of destiny; he will try to save US journalism

Summary: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos won't sit back and idly bankroll the Washington Post. He might not have a plan just yet, but he will.

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TOPICS: Amazon
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Tuesday morning I was discussing the Bezos Washington Post on NPR's "To the Point" program with host Warren OlneyJohn F. Harris, Editor-in-Chief of Politico; and Nick Wingfield from the New York Times.

Here's my notes:

- There seems to be an impression that Jeff Bezos' technical acumen can save the Washington Post and the newspaper industry. 

- No one knows Mr Bezos' plan of action, probably because he doesn't have a plan, yet.

- I made several points:

- I lamented the lack of critical analysis of the deal in the days following its announcement. I wondered what was a worse sign of the decline in American journalism: the lack of critical thinking, or a belief that tech billionaires will save the newspaper industry?

- One of the guests spoke about short term thinking at the Washington Post and that there was wasn't much  long term strategy, or focus on innovation, or  launching businesses such as Craigslist, or Angie's List.

My main points:

- I said that it wasn't a lack of long term thinking that led to the demise of the Washington Post. There was nothing that the owners of the newspaper could do because they were facing the disruptive technologies of the Internet, and the web is a publishing technology.  Disruptive technologies disrupt.

- The Internet made possible Craigslist, which alone, takes out more than $16 billion a year from the classified ads industry.  It used to be worth $20 billion a year in 2000 and it helped fund journalism. 

- It only takes one Craigslist, just 35 people to run a classified ads service for more than 300 cities. Every newspaper could't create their own Craigslist, or Angie's List. You only need one of them.

- I managed to use, "Follow the money" — the classic Washington Post line from the movie "All the President's Men" — to help explain the economics of the newspaper business.

- The newspaper industry won't be saved by technology. The problem of creating a sustainable news industry is not because we don't have the right app, just yet, and that Jeff Bezos and his geek army of developers will whip something up. Yet there's broad belief that Mr. Bezos tech background is what will save the newspaper industry.

- The newspaper industry can be saved but it needs to be done at scale, the Washington Post cannot do it by itself. 

- I believe very strongly that Jeff Bezos will try to save the newspaper industry —  he didn't buy the Washington Post just for the influence it gives him and Amazon.

- Jeff Bezos has a sense of destiny and if he can develop a sustainable business model for high quality news organizations then he will have saved democracy. That would  more than a feather in his cap, that's a whole headdress, (and very apt for the local football team). 

It will be a much harder thing to do than simply giving billions of dollars away — as his Seattle neighbor Bill Gates is doing. Historians will measure the two billionaires against each other and one will eclipse the other. Which one will it be? 

Here's the show: Is Jeff Bezos a Threat or a Savior to Journalism? - "To the Point" on KCRW

Please see:

Uncomfortable facts about the new Washington Post

Here's Why Bezos Had To Use His Own Money For Washington Post

 

A stride too far for Bezos? Pew Research graphs his stunning challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topic: Amazon

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14 comments
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  • Save US journalism?

    You mean save the paper business. That's two different things.
    2low_tech
    • RE: Save US journalism?

      There was a time when being a journalist was a sustainable position, something one could work at full-time, without need for a second income. That pool of available work for livable money is shrinking. Newspaper just seems to be what was the medium for journalism, and journalists alike. Paper dies out, so does most journalism.

      So in a sense, to save a news organization that transmits primarily through paper, one would need to find a way to save both, or more likely change the medium.
      jetsethi
  • Huh?

    Journalism isn't going away, there will always be news. I just wish there was such a thing as reliable and accurate news because it seems everybody has their influence on the media these days.
    slickjim
    • The new media has always been biased throughout its history

      Just read some of the stuff the press said about Jefferson, and of course, there was the classic yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer.

      The primary difference today is that the mainstream media has become largely lockstep in its bias. If you've read one national newspaper or watched on network or cable news program (with the possible exception of Fox News sometimes) you've pretty much watched them all. Wouldn't it be refreshing to be able to say tune into CBS and see completely different news stories than on NBC?
      baggins_z
  • Bezos & the News

    I am sure that Bezos will attempt to find a format that allows journalism to make a profit. It really is not about making money, but you cannot operate at a loss forever. For long term operations you HAVE to have a profit. One ideas is to allow journalists to right deeper longer articles than the newspaper format allows, and sell them. Electronic newspapers don't have the space limitations that papers has. It might give a Amazon prime members newspapers subscriptions, etc.
    hayneiii@...
  • You want to save the newspaper industry?

    Simple. Actually practice journalism again instead of just being a bunch of Democrat party stenographers, and watch your newspaper sales take off.
    baggins_z
    • Republicans bear a lot of the blame

      Republicans have sat around while liberals have systematically taken over institutions of learning (particularly of higher learning) and the news. That is why pundits are largely liberal. That is why a relatively low percentage of kids / young people nowadays identify themselves as conservative. Conservatives have essentially abdicated the propaganda machinery to liberals; and instead of jumping around saying, "What are we going to do? What are we going to do?", they walk around deluding themselves that things will get better on their own. I think it is so ridiculous. Most wealthy people are Republicans. You would think they would buy networks like ABC and kick out the liberal lead staffs that set the tone for the organizations, or put pressure on colleges and universities to have strong conservative leanings. Instead they just sit around and do nothing.
      P. Douglas
      • OMFG

        Not the place for delusional political wackery
        greywolf7
  • Again, get off the web

    Newspapers, magazines, etc. need to make a commitment to one another, to transition all together, off of the web, into app subscription ecosystems. If you move into a neighborhood, where the real estate value all around you is close to zero (which is the web), you should not expect the value of your IP to plunge towards zero as well.

    On the MS side of things, I wish MS had a single Xbox Live app that users could use to access a slew of content including music, videos, newspapers, magazines, apps such as Fox News and Cinemax, and MS promoted subscribing to the service to gain access to this huge amount of premium content. Newspapers could then transition to such a subscription ecosystem and eventually make all their content be available within Xbox Live (maybe also Amazon Prime), and provide only samples of their content on their web sites, with links to Xbox Live, etc..
    P. Douglas
    • Sorry for error

      "If you move into a neighborhood, where the real estate value all around you is close to zero (which is the web), you should [not] expect the value of your IP to plunge towards zero as well."

      Sorry, I meant to say:

      "If you move into a neighborhood, where the real estate value all around you is close to zero (which is the web), you should expect the value of your IP to plunge towards zero as well."
      P. Douglas
    • Also

      Another thing that could sweeten the deal for newspapers, is the fact that if MS provided cloud based infrastructure to create networks by entities, many newspapers could start producing live and archive video content (something similar to the Windows 8 Vevo app), radio, etc., providing opportunities to expand their businesses.
      P. Douglas
  • Roganize that ******* ***** *** *****.

    The only way to 'save' journalism is to Roganize that b*tch.
    grokzilla
  • Pitiable optimism

    "Jeff Bezos has a sense of destiny and if he can develop a sustainable business model for high quality news organizations then he will have saved democracy."

    To save democracy in America requires far more than restoring journalism and high quality newspapers. It requires a huge limitation of the insidious power of global corporations and a reconstruction of the Government to at least attempt to live up to the Constitution. None more so than in the IT arena ... of which Amazon is an increasing part.

    Democracy is when I get a vote to shut down parts of the NSA program and reverse Obama's decision to favour APPL over SAMSUNG in their patent case.
    Foremski's statement is one of pitiable optimism.
    jacksonjohn
  • Let Them Save Themselves

    Why would journalism need saving... After all these are the pundits that tell us how to vote, what products deserve to live or die, what industries are worthy or not. Let them save themselves, if they can.
    greywolf7