Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bezos Buys Washington Post - A BA View

+Jeff Jarvis is one of my favorite positive curmudgeons. He's not afraid of being passionate, outspoken, opinionated, angry, gleeful, and excited. He's also not afraid to be wrong and to learn and to be public about it.

With those credentials, here's a quote from the BBC News Magazine:
Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, says he hopes Bezos will shake things up at the Post and help it adapt to a post-print world. 
"In some ways it has to be a philanthropic act," says Jarvis of the purchase. 
"Bezos is trying to protect an American institution. But I hope he doesn't just pay its bills. 
"My only fear is that he's famously secretive. It's part of his business. Whatever innovation he does at the Washington Post, it will help us all if it is done openly."
I haven't heard Jeff weigh in on This Week in Google (TWiG) yet - very curious! Before then, I have a thought about how Bezos thinks, and what that might mean for the Post.

From what I have read and seen, a big part of the genius of Amazon was the ability to break the business down into reusable, scalable parts. It's in their supply chain, their websites, and their web services. Some of these have become large businesses on their own as a result.

Purpose is another hallmark of his leadership. Amazon has created a lot of businesses, each with clear direction and focus. Right from the start it was a business based on a vision, and that hasn't changed.

If these behaviours are part of his nature, Bezos is looking at the Post in terms of it's parts and in terms of purpose. First things first - the post isn't a newspaper. Newspaper is a way to mass-distribute information when distribution is hard. The Washington Post, at it's core, does three things.

  1. Find news.
  2. Curate the news (for importance and relevance).
  3. Distribute the news (to the people who find it important and relevant).

Somewhere among these three revenues must be collected and profit made. Right now the Post (and other news organizations) mostly monitise the third part. Ads and subscriptions are the traditional methods. Getting paid to find news invalidates the newsworthiness of the news, in the same way paying for love invalidates that love; non-monetary markets will remain a prime mover here. That leaves the money in curation.

What do you think?

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