Friday, September 6, 2013
Jeff Bezos is now the proud owner of the Washington Post, a brand one could argue is stalled, stuck and stale. To some, it’s an occasion for hand-wringing: What if this filthy-rich business titan dares to insert himself into–gasp–editorial decisions? For others it’s a celebration: At last–someone who has both a vision and a track record sees something worth saving at what was once a venerable American institution.
I tend to fall in the latter camp. From all appearances, Bezos’ and the Post’s editorial leanings are similar; were he to meddle with the newspaper’s positions it would no doubt annoy journalism purists but would likely go unnoticed by readers. There is little doubt, however, that he will bring radical change to the way news is promoted and delivered–first at the Post and soon after throughout the Fourth Estate.
To paraphrase my thoughts in “Newspapers and Creative Destruction“ back in 2009, paper is to news as an aluminum can is to Coke—a proven way to deliver the product but not the source of its value:
There will always be a market for news, and newspapers still have core competencies in gathering, reporting and interpreting what’s important to their readers. If they do their job well, they’ll continue to be able to provide the exclusive content for which readers will pay, regardless of whether or not it results in ink-stained fingers. The more the newspaper industry focuses on “news” rather than “paper,” the better off it (and we) will be. That will enable it to embrace evolving distribution opportunities and find new sources of revenue and competitive advantage. Just like every other industry must do.
With Bezos now seated at the head of the table at the Washington Post, we’re going to see real innovation in news distribution. And quickly, I predict. That will be a boon to the citizenry of every city.