Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Bezos' motivation? Here's a contrarian's view

A lot of the news coverage of Jeff Bezos' $250 million purchase of The Washington Post has been rah-rah. The Amazon founder is painted as a white knight riding a high-tech horse to the newspaper's rescue.

But of everything I've read, the most compelling is by John Cassidy, a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. Here's the money graph from his new post:

"I have a nagging, if possibly unfounded, suspicion that his primary motivation in buying the Post is to protect Amazon’s interests in the political battle, which is sure to come, over the company’s monopolistic tendencies. Why do I suspect that? In part, because I am a skeptic. But also because it’s just about the only explanation that makes sense."


  1. Perhaps he has a plan to successfully monetize content. Since neither Gannett nor anyone else after a decade has figured it out, his rollout could be instructive. Amazon already hosts paid content for many newspapers. Bezos is smart enough to know that turning WaPo into a pithy sound board for sales tax exemptions would kill the brand.

  2. I have puzzled over Bezos' motivation too, and of course I have no specific knowledge of what it really might be, but I would be more inclined to speculate that he may be deliberately moving further into the general business of content-creation, as opposed to just delivery of content others have produced (such as books, streaming media, etc.). There's more profit if you can create the content, control its use, and then distribute it without having to share royalties. In buying the WP, he has picked up an organization which is expert in researching, reporting, and packaging content that people want to read. (Of course that particular organization is also close to government sources, so I can see that aspect of Cassidy's argument.)

    NetFlix (an Amazon competitor) is now producing its own video series (see "House of Cards"). And in another arena, Amazon is actively pushing budding authors to publish their work first on the site (another form of content creation), so Amazon can share with authors directly in the profits and cut standard publishers from the loop. Buying a mature, well-respected news brand like the WP seems to be the next logical step for Amazon.

    Before I decided that the endgame for Gannett was other than producing a quality product, I thought that the salvation for Gannett would be in exploiting whatever alliances it could forge with distribution channels like the big telecom companies or organizations like Google or Amazon. Gannett, with its tentacles reaching deep into local communities and markets looked poised to be a great content producer if teamed with a powerful distribution channel. Sadly, I haven't seen any indication that that is happening.

    Bezos is a genius. It will be fascinating to see what he does with the WP.

    Just speculation, of course...


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.