Jeff Bezos has personally purchased The Washington Post for $250 million, almost literally on a whim. If we are to believe The New York Times’ fanning profile of publisher Katherine Weymouth this past weekend– which held lots of talk about the challenges of newspapers, no hint of a “secret tech savior” — then the only executives aware of an acquisition possibility were the Graham family and Mr. Bezos.
Here’s what analysts (and Jeff Bezos) are saying about the purchase:
Jeff Bezos to Berliner-Zeitung: “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.”
Alex Wilhelm at TechCrunch, “What Did Bezos Actually Buy?” “Given the inherent opacity of the financial information that we have, it isn’t precisely clear just how strong of a financial entity Bezos has purchased. However, I think that if we speak broadly, we can state that the Post’s rising digital revenues are encouraging, and could more than cover its falling print income. Therefore, if Bezos can control continuing one-time expenses, and stabilize its cost structure, the Post might not bleed cash. For a newspaper of its scale, that’s actually a somewhat impressive statement.”
Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily, “Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post. This Is Either Wonderful for Journalism Or Horrifying.” “It’s been clear for a while the Post has a huge newsroom which its digital revenues simply can’t support. There just weren’t any clear answers. The paper was frequently compared to Boston Globe — a hybrid between a nationally important and regionally important franchise, that would be challenged to have the same impact it once did with a paywall. And tellingly, The Globe just got sold as well. So what will Bezos do with the Post? The fact that it just invested in BusinessInsider, and Bezos’srecent comments to Bloomberg BusinessWeek about preferring news that is “short and well written,” are certainly worrying data points for journalism purists. There are few publications that seem such opposites.”
Emily Bell at The Guardian, “Jeff Bezos’ Shocking Washington Post Buy Was Not a Business Deal — It Was a Cultural Statement.” “The ‘p’ word is already being whispered in relation to Bezos buying the Post : philanthropy. To many American journalists, this is a dirty word, associated with news operations that are substandard and therefore subsidised. But those with wealth at their disposal continue to see the direct funding of journalism as a way of pulling levers of influence, maybe more effectively than in other arenas. Great foundations such as the Ford and the Gates have started to directly subsidise journalism, not because they feel sorry for it, but because they believe it still constitutes a benefit to society, which is not easily replicated elsewhere.“
Jeff Bezos, in a letter to Post employees: “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.”
The Washington Post Co. CEO Donald Graham, in a letter to Post readers: “Our revenues had declined seven years in a row. We had innovated, and to my critical eye our innovations had been quite successful in audience and in quality, but they hadn’t made up for the revenue decline. Our answer had to be cost cuts, and we knew there was a limit to that. We were certain the paper would survive under our ownership, but we wanted it to do more than that. We wanted it to succeed.”
Fascinating opinions, indeed! What do you guys think…six months before he axes the print edition? Three months?