Digital & Social Media

Amazonian Challenge at WaPo

Amazonian Challenge at WaPo

While some people are asking, “What was Jeff Bezos thinking when he purchased The Washington Post?” those who know the founder as a consummate strategic thinker recognize the potential Bezos sees. Like retail in the 1990s, the newspaper business today offers Bezos a chance to re-envision an industry that is ready to revolutionize its engagement with consumers. With this acquisition, Bezos may yet again be able to push the envelope on content, business synergies and true customer-centric experiences.

When you compare the Amazon business with this icon of traditional media and journalistic excellence, you see the overlap that may have attracted Bezos:

  • The Amazon CEO knows a powerhouse brand when he sees one, after having masterfully built his own. With The Washington Post, he acquired a brand already known for its quality content, courage and integrity.
  • With Amazon, Bezos has managed to revolutionize the reading experience, something the newspaper industry can certainly benefit from.
  • Although the Post will not be part of Amazon, Bezos may see ways to partner with Amazon to bundle that company’s content-marketing business and frictionless transaction capability with the expanded Post news offerings.
  • While subscriptions are core to the newspaper business, Amazon also is in the subscription business with customer recommendation and loyalty programs it has created as well as its premium membership PRIME offering. These programs may provide Bezos with business models from which he can draw for the Post.
  • Bezos is a proven disrupter and may look at the newspaper reader experience as his next target. Creating a unique, interactive digital experience is critical to the long-term success of all news organizations. While some have made steady progress in that direction, few offerings can approach the customer-centric experience that Amazon has mastered. Bezos may provide the technology mindset that has been missing from most digital newspaper makeovers.
  • Amazon believes that the customer responds to customized content. With its expertise in strategic data analysis, Amazon has the ability to know what the customer needs and wants and to which recommendations a consumer may respond. These are insights that may change the face of the newspaper business as well.
  • Constant innovation and experimentation is second nature to Amazon, and integrating a similar culture into the comparatively analog world of news organizations may be Bezos’ first priority.
  • Finally, of course, Amazon has been able to create a world-class delivery and distribution network, insights from which may help the newspaper industry assuming as Bezos has promised a print version is retained.

Bezos was once quoted as saying, “Sometimes we may go down blind alleys, but what can prove interesting is that sometimes they can turn into broad avenues.” It is impossible to predict if this purchase will turn out to be one of these broad avenues, but at the very least the acquisition reinforces the importance and power of news as a necessary element in the digital arena.

Photo credits: Jeff Bezos, Washington Post (Getty Images)


About the author

Janet Robinson began her career at the New York Times Company in 1983, serving as its CEO for the past seven years. Before joining the Times Company, she was a public school teacher in Newport, R.I., and Somerset, Mass. In addition to her experience in publishing, Robinson served as chairwoman of the Advertising Council and the American Advertising Federation.