Era ends, new chapter set for Washington Post
By Rob Lever, AFPWASHINGTON--With Jeff Bezos set to take over The Washington Post, the big question is: Can he arrest its decline and deliver an economic model for the rest of the industry?
September 30, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
The 49-year-old founder of Amazon could give the storied newspaper a chance to make the transition to the digital age, but it remains unclear whether he has a winning formula for ailing metropolitan daily newspapers.
Bezos, who agreed in August to buy the Post for US$250 million and take it private, is expected to close the deal sometime in early October, though no official date has been disclosed.
He has said little about his plans for the 136-year-old daily, which has long been seen as among the most influential in the United States, famous for its trailblazing coverage of the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover up which led to the resignation of president Richard Nixon in 1974.
Bezos said in August that he had “no map” for the Post but in a recent interview with CNN he called the newspaper “an important institution,” and remarked that he was “optimistic about its future.”
“It's a personal investment. I'm hopeful that I can help from a distance in part by providing runway for them to do a series of experiments, in part through bringing some of the philosophy that we have used at Amazon to the Post,” he said.
'Long and patient view'
Some say Bezos, a pioneer in online retailing, could revitalize a traditional business where recent years have seen jobs being slashed amid sinking revenues as news and advertising moves to the Internet.
“He is willing to take a long and patient view ... to let things roll without worrying about profitability,” said Alan Mutter, a Silicon valley-based media consultant and former Chicago newspaper editor.
“He's obviously a very talented businessman and has to be counted as one of the true digital natives,” who could offer new ideas.
“He can look at the problems dispassionately. He didn't go to journalism school. He did not sell ads. Most of the people in the business have been in the newspaper business, they might not be out-of-the box thinkers.”
But Peter Copeland, a former editor and executive for the EW Scripps newspaper group and now a media consultant, cautioned against dramatic change, noting that the Post's print circulation still generates significant revenues, though less than previously.