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Jeffrey Bezos Purchases the Washington Post


On August 5, 2013 founder Jeffrey Bezos agreed to purchase the Washington Post newspaper for $250 million.

"The Post, like the newspaper industry as a whole, has been beset by a rapid decline in print advertising, a loss of subscribers and challenges in building up online revenue.  

"In a letter to Post employees, Bezos indicated that he wouldn't make radical changes in editorial operations and would continue to emphasize accountability journalism. But he said the paper will need to "invent" and to "experiment," focusing on the Internet and tailored content, to address the changing habits of readers.  

"Bezos, 49, was on nobody's list of likely entrants into print media.

" 'This is the first time a true digital native is buying a newspaper publishing company,' said Alan D. Mutter, a media consultant and former newspaper editor. 'Jeff Bezos has the means, motive and opportunity to re-envision what it means to be a newspaper in the digital era.' 

"Bezos will own the Post outright, buying it with his own money, not Amazon's. By taking it private, he won't be subject to shareholders seeking quick returns.  

"Bezos, a Princeton University graduate, founded Amazon in 1994 as an online book seller. He quickly added other services and built it into the world's biggest online retailer, with $61 billion in sales last year and 97,000 employees worldwide" (,0,4515179.story, accessed 08-07-2013).

♦ Shortly after Bezos's purchase, the most meaningful commentary on it that I read was Arianna Huffington's "Bezos, Heraclitus and the Hybrid Future of Journalism," published on August 14, 2013 in The Blog at The Huffington Post. Huffington, of Greek descent, who was influential in transforming journalism by forming and developing The Huffington Post, began her comments with the following paragraphs:

"One of the first people who came to mind when I heard the news last week that Jeff Bezos was buying the Washington Post was a fellow countryman, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who around 2,500 years ago said, 'No man ever steps in the same river twice.' Or, as James Fallows put it, the sale was 'one of those episode-that-encapsulates-an-era occurrences.' But as it encapsulates one era that has passed, it also has the potential to expand the era we are in. This combining of the best of traditional media with the boundless potential of digital media represents an amazing opportunity.  

"First, it's an opportunity to further move the conversation away from the future of newspapers to the future of journalism -- in whatever form it's delivered. After all, despite all the dire news about the state of the newspaper industry, we are in something of a golden age of journalism for news consumers. There's no shortage of great journalism being done, and there's no shortage of people hungering for it. And there are many different business models being tried to connect the former with the latter -- and Jeff Bezos will no doubt come up with another.  

"The future will definitely be a hybrid one, combining the best practices of traditional journalism -- fairness, accuracy, storytelling, deep investigations -- with the best tools available to the digital world -- speed, transparency, and, above all, engagement.  

"Though the distinction between new media and old has become largely meaningless, for too long the reaction of much of the old media to the fast-growing digital world was something like the proverbial old man yelling at the new media kids to get off his lawn. Many years were wasted erecting barriers that were never going to stand."

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