The world of print news media is undergoing yet another convulsion. Some shake ups are clearly indicative of an industry that is, to put it mildly, struggling. Others may result in the birth of a new publishing model for the internet that meets the challenge of bloggers and free online content on demand.
In the first category is the fact that The New York Times just unloaded the Boston Globe for a huge loss. Another would be the acknowledged failure of Tina Brown’s merging of the Daily Beast and Newsweek. The first just wasn’t smart business. It was the Grey Lady ogling herself in the sense that she saw a mirror image of herself in the Globe, another iconic East Coast publication. The second was at least an attempt to bridge online and traditional publishing. But Newsweek was in crisis mode before the deal. The idea should have been aborted, not pushed through.
But the news that Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post might be very different. The deal is secretive, and not much was revealed in press statements. We know that Bezos doesn’t want to micromanage, which is understandable when your full time job is running Amazon. Still, if anyone can keep these venerable newspapers of record from lumbering into extinction it would be Bezos. No one understands the click and brick model of ecommerce success more than him.
The tycoon-buys-newspaper precedent is well established in the US. The advantage of owning your own personal soapbox is considerably more valuable than the worth of the news asset in question. In all seriousness, no one expects them to serve as PR organs for their owners as in the days of Hearst and Citizen Kane. The motivation here might be simpler. Owning a newspaper like the WaPo is like owning a slice of American cultural history. Bezos might be the savior print media is waiting for, lifting the black and white out of the red.