What Jeff Bezos Should do with the Washington Post

Can We Afford the News

The news that Amazon's Bezos personally purchasing The Washington Post for $250 million is providing a strong example of the volume and range of opinions, information, and first hand experience accessible on the Interwebs.

All content published freely by people close to the industry — topped by Kara Swisher's eloquent open letter, which is being shared on all social networks, in itself indication that good journalism does not go out of style — and readers close to the news organization.

With paper product or not, The Washington Post still has plenty of brand equity and credibility.

Borrowing the sentiment from conversations I've had countless times with companies about their online presences, there is now one business that will get to experience what it's like to be the "Amazon" of its industry.

Amazon's secret to online dominance

Has not changed in any big way since it began its rise to the top, yet it has changed how fundamentally every other business it disrupts needs to rethink its model.

Retail as a category is not what it used to be.

Neither are logistics, consumer electronics, publishing, cloud computing, and Web services. In fact, the company is much more infrastructure as a service than any one line it can source, recommend via peer reviews, and ship.

The secret(s): the company's dedication to customer service and its masterful use of consumers’ browsing and purchase data to tailor the site for each visitor.

In fact, I think their site has single-handedly redefined how we'd like
to have an online purchasing experience — fast, interesting, and

In its Prime

Amazon Prime membership drives higher traffic and buying patterns. The Morningstar report# predicted that there could be 25 million Prime members by 2017.

The Times#:

Membership in Amazon Prime, the service that includes unlimited free
two-day shipping and tends to boost customer spending at Amazon
dramatically, has doubled in less than two years.

[…] a report from Morningstar and Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) estimated that there are now 10 million subscribers to Amazon Prime,
which offers free streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows and,
most important, free two-day shipping on most Amazon purchases

The data speaks in support. There is correlation between site
performance (execution) as tied to customer preference, and repeated
purchases as tied to customer experience.

Bezos never takes its eye off the ball. I remember reading an article about Jeff Bezos on Fast Company a couple of years back and being impressed by what it said about Amazon.com's founder.

he is described as the ultimate analytical guy, who will hone in the
small improvements that will drive efficiencies and profit. Yet, he is
also someone who's

always driven by the belief that what's good for the customer will
ultimately turn out to be in the company's enlightened self-interest

For this reason he is constantly testing new ideas.

Hyper relevance

Is the fast, interesting, and personal of content. Amazon's founder has been testing this concept with kdp select — content, community, and commerce activated by discovery and converted through engagement.

Lots of contemporary buzzwords in one phrase; and the sweet ring of opportunity in one concept.

Will Jeff Bezos be good for journalism? Hard to say.

On Politico Richard Brandt, who spent 18 months writing a book about Bezos without ever managing to get an interview with anyone at the company, puts forth some thoughts.

Overall, the prevalent sentiment is one of hope — that Internet-savvy Bezos will help disrupt an industry on the road to entertainment extinction and in desperate need for a way forward.

You can't persuade people you are relevant to what they are trying to do without actually providing that experience. In Bezos own words#:

"In the old world, you could make a living by hoping that your customer didn't know whether your price was actually competitive. That's a very" — Bezos pauses for a second to rummage for the least insulting word — "tenuous strategy in the new world.

[Now] you can't convince people you have the low price; you actually have to have the low price. You can't persuade people that your delivery speeds are fast; you actually have to have fast delivery speeds!"

Information is the lifeblood of possibility, it helps shed light on situations and make sense of things.

In journalism, to paraphrase Swisher, that means telling the best story you can in the most genuine way, and using the finest tools available.

The scope of the challenge

In business, that means not papering over the distance between promises made and promises kept. When technology is involved, that includes curiosity, experimentation, and a healthy dose of patience.


The graphs put together by the Pew Research center's project for excellence in journalism illustrate the dose of patience needed and the scope of the challenge.


[illustration by Robert Armstrong, companion to an article in the Sacramento NewsReview.com post titled Can we Afford the News? and dated April 2008]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effect on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her to speak click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *