It’s no secret that newspapers as a whole are on the decline. Some of the longest-standing family-owned outlets in the country have already shuttered their doors, and the ones who are managing to stay afloat are doing so with the help of digitization efforts and an online presence. This characteristic of journalistic publishing made the news this past spring that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, had purchased the Washington Post all that much more interesting.
The Washington Post has an interesting history in its own right, one that includes the fame of bringing down a US President with its involvement in exposing the Watergate scandal. But according to an article about the paper in the Columbia Journalism Review, the Post has done little else since then to stay on top of the newspaper publishing market.
And that’s supposed to be where Jeff Bezos comes in. The man who built an empire out of selling stuff online did so by sticking to the concept that today’s work is never good enough, so there are those who are anxious to see how that translates into the future for an entity that is built on yesterday’s news.
According to the CJR, Bezos was the one who was approached about buying the paper for the simple reason that he could afford to, and because he had the digital know-how to bring the paper back to some measure of relevance. The owners at the time, an almost century-old family enterprise, knew they had a sinking ship on their hands if they didn’t catch up to what the rest of the digital publishing industry was doing, namely making the switch to digital subscriptions and app-based news opportunities like Press Reader or Zinio.
One of the big obstacles for the Post to overcome will be its narrow focus. Known as a Washington insiders’ look and the top-notch source of news that related to the small world of politics, that model isn’t going to be enough for Bezos. The man who morphed from selling books to publishing books to selling diapers, groceries, and hardware isn’t going to be content with a narrow focus like the Post’s. Fortunately, that focus is already shifting, and the paper is hiring.
One thing is certain, and that if anyone is qualified to bring a publishing outlet–even a journalism outlet–into the future, Bezos is the man to do it. What remains to be seen is whether or not he will cut his losses and close its doors, or if the paper will even resemble its historic ancestors once he’s finished with it.