Most people were stunned to learn that Bezos paid $250 million to buy the storied but troubled Washington Post. The newspaper suffered a 44 percent drop in revenue over the past six years. Inscrutable as ever Bezos was vague about his intentions. But it’s likely he’ll bring some Amazon management techniques to the Post and encourage experimentation without regard for short-term profits and losses.
No one knows for certain thinks Stone, but expect to see that his overarching goal will be to create a thriving new media species on the digital frontier.
Writing for Business Insider for which he is also an investor, Henry Blodget sees some similarities between the digital news business and his e-commerce business no one in the news business has really capitalized on yet. Exactly what are these similarities are is expanded in his commentary:
Digital news and e-commerce businesses can be something that no traditional competitor can be: infinitely broad and infinitely deep. Stores and traditional media properties are limited by space constraints: They either have to be specialized, like Best Buy or Automotive Week, or, generalists, like Wal-Mart or the current Washington Post. Digital businesses don’t have those constraints. They can be both broad and deep.
“Another similarity is that digital news and e-commerce businesses can be deeply personalized. Just as every return visitor to Amazon sees a different front page, every return visitor to a news site can be presented with a different story selection.
A third similarity is that, in commerce and media, you don’t have to own the whole market to do well. Tech businesses tend to be winner-take-most. Media and commerce, meanwhile, are vast, fragmented markets in which a small share can eventually become a big business (so you don’t have to totally dominate to win).
Lastly, I’d guess that Jeff Bezos thinks there are many ways in which the news business might be complementary to Amazon.
In addition, Blodget advances four reasons why he believes that the Post’s news business may be complementary with Bezos’ Amazon:
- Amazon is already in the content production and distribution business — and news is just another kind of content. Amazon distributes massive amounts of print and digital content. The content the Washington Post publishes and distributes could be bundled or distributed with that content. And, similarly, the content that Amazon produces — mainly commerce-related, but increasingly media — could be integrated with the Washington Post’s content, offering more choices for customers and consumers.
- Amazon is already in the subscription and media-gadget businesses. Subscribers to Amazon’s “Prime” delivery service already get to watch free movies and TV shows. Amazon Kindle buyers already have access to free books. It’s easy to imagine that Prime subscribers and Kindle buyers will soon have convenient, free access to the Washington Post — and that this access might make a Prime subscription or Kindle ownership more valuable. Washington Post reporters, meanwhile, could produce an endless supply of e-books and Kindle Singles.
- “News” is the digital equivalent of a high-traffic intersection: As people pass through to figure out what’s happening they might also stop to do some shopping. Content and commerce companies have long dabbled with combining the two experiences, but no one has really nailed it. Given Amazon’s expertise in affiliate marketing and advertising, it’s not hard to imagine that the Washington Post could quickly become a laboratory for the next generation of integrated content and commerce.
- Amazon is getting into the local physical delivery business — a business that the Washington Post is already in. Could stuff ordered from Amazon be delivered with your morning newspaper? Why not? And your daily newspaper — or parts of it — could certainly be delivered in a box with your Amazon stuff. I doubt that Bezos is really interested in the print version of the Post, but as long as it exists, it might be fun to fiddle with.
In short, there are lots cool synergies that Jeff Bezos and Amazon might want to experiment with.”
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