The big announcement of Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post set off a mass of Internet chatter and media speculation. Why did he do this? What will happen now? Who will run the paper? How will it change? Then came the conspiracy theories with references to tax avoidance and political motivations. What will Jeff Bezos do now that he controls one of the most influential newspapers in the United States and possibly the world? A newspaper that focuses much of its attention on the goings on in our nation’s capital – the rulers of the free world. Pundits have been having a field day with this news.
In my opinion, Jeff Bezos has made the largest impact on the world of content of anyone to date (my apologies to Steve Jobs and his fans). He pioneered the ability to integrate the offline and online aspects of retail… beginning with books. He democratized content. He created the concept of the eBook. He changed how we access books by introducing us to Kindle. He completely reinvented the way people purchase content on demand. He introduced many of us to shopping online. He introduced us to online consumer-generated reviews. And while all of this is certainly history-making, most of this happened a while ago. Jeff has just been making small tweaks to Amazon for the past seven or eight years and he’s likely ready for something new.
Amazon did not buy the Washington Post. Jeff Bezos bought it with his own $250 million. Jeff is 49 years old and being the same age myself, I could surmise that he has taken some pause to think about what’s next. He has already won in business. What’s the next challenge for his career? How does he want to be remembered? I won’t say the purchase of the Washington Post is akin to buying a red sports car, but it can be a good time to assess life and what you want out of it.
I’m looking forward to watching this story unfold. No newspaper to date has been able to crack the code on how to take its print edition and make the content usable, valuable and commercially successful in today’s digitally connected world. I think Jeff has the ability to disrupt and reinvent a new way to access newspaper content. Taking a traditional model and evolving it is something Jeff knows how to do and clearly has a passion for – the Washington Post provides a vehicle for his next challenge. Another chance to make his mark on history. A chance to leave an even more profound legacy. And fun for us all to witness. I for one will be following this closely and will be eager to learn from it.