Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, recently acquired the Washington Post, one of the oldest American newspapers in circulation. The Post was founded in 1877, and was Washington DC’s first newspaper to publish seven days a week (even on Sundays). Today, news circulates unceasingly, and is quickly transitioning from print to online. Jeff Bezos understands this better than anyone, and acknowledges as much in his letter to The Post employees:
“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.”
Another key line in his letter directly follows the acknowledgment,
“Journalism plays a critical role in a free society”.
This point is especially poignant in light of the recent Snowden NSA leaks, and the role of Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian in delivering his revelations. And The Post is no stranger in this territory. In the early 1970’s, Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led the investigation into the “Watergate Scandal”, which lead to the eventual resignation of President Nixon.
Still, Bezos’ goals for The Post are a big question mark. Will he use the newspaper to boost his literary credentials, a la Mortimer Zuckerman? Or, will he find a way to integrate The Post into the Amazon Prime / Kindle empire? Either way, Bezos is uniquely qualified to successfully bring good journalism from print to online media and is a very exciting new figure in the world of journalism. In the words of VC Fred Wilson, “Kudos to Jeff Bezos for using his capital to invest in something this important to our world. Super impressive move.”