Jeffrey P. Bezos Buys the Washington Post - Reactions Varied, Employees Worried
Jeffrey P. Bezos is worth an estimated $25.2 billion, owns Amazon.Com and just purchased The Washington Post for $250 million, freaking out many in the news business and sparking discussion and debate to this simple question - why did Bezos buy the Post?
Reactions were varied and at times extreme, and employees are worried about their livelihood at the finically challenged newspaper.
For the record, the purchase also gives Jeffrey P. Bezos ownership of the Washington Post Company's other smaller newspaper titles, but non-newspaper parts of the Post's business (Slate, The Root, and the Kaplan educational division) were not included in the sale, but that gives little hint on the reason for the purchase.
Financially, the paper is struggling.
According to a Huff Po article, the company's newspaper division is hemorrhaging money, in the first half of 2013, it lost $49.3 million.
In an interview after the sale was announced, Bezos called The Post 'an important institution' and expressed optimism about its future, but said he doesn't have some grand plan to save the newspaper.
"I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan," he said. "This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation."
Newspaper business is dying…
According to Tech Crunch, Mr. Bezos spoke with the German paper, Berliner-Zeitung in 2012 and had strong opinions on the future of newspapers.
"There is one thing I’m certain about: there won’t be printed newspapers in twenty years. Maybe as luxury items in some hotels that want to offer them as an extravagant service. Printed papers won’t be normal in twenty years," he said in the interview.
So, why did he buy it?
Many are bust speculating why Bezel made the purchase with headlines ranging from 'What is Jeff Bezos thinking?' at Politico to 'Here's Why I Think Jeff Bezos Bought The Washington Post,' by Business Insider's Henry Blodget.
For the record, Bezos already owns Business Insider and the writer discloses that early and gives his opinion based partly on the fact that he already works for Bezos.
Here is a letter Bezos sent to the employees of WaPo right after the big announcement, trying to explain why he made the move to purchase the newspaper.
To the employees of The Washington Post:
You’ll have heard the news, and many of you will greet it with a degree of apprehension. When a single family owns a company for many decades, and when that family acts for all those decades in good faith, in a principled manner, in good times and in rough times, as stewards of important values – when that family has done such a good job – it is only natural to worry about change.
So, let me start with something critical. The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.
I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in “the other Washington” where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.
There will of course be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. 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. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.
Journalism plays a critical role in a free society, and The Washington Post -- as the hometown paper of the capital city of the United States -- is especially important. I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost. While I hope no one ever threatens to put one of my body parts through a wringer, if they do, thanks to Mrs. Graham’s example, I’ll be ready.
I want to say one last thing that’s really not about the paper or this change in ownership. I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Don very well over the last ten plus years. I do not know a finer man.
Bezos has earlier indicated that he believes people will not pay for news content on the web and the Washington Post put up a metered paywall earlier this year, charging readers who access more than 20 articles a month.
What changes he makes to that and the real reason he bought the paper will only be revealed going forward, but they certainly are coming.
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