Well, that was a surprise. Some excellent words from Emily Bell on the subject, well worth reading in full:
At the end of a week that saw the Boston Globe sold for $70m by the New York Times Company, to Red Sox owner John W Henry, it seems that the lock gates transferring newspapers from a gilded past, through an unsustainable present, to to an unknown future have creaked open. Newspapers are now restored to their former status as playthings of the rich, rather than market-driven profit centers.
First, I’d guess that Jeff Bezos thinks that owning the Washington Post will be interesting, fun, and cool. And my guess is that, if that is all it ever turns out to be, Jeff Bezos will be fine with that. This is a man who invests in rockets and atomic clocks, after all. He doesn’t necessarily make these investments for the money. Or bragging rights. Or strategic synergies.
Second, I’d guess that Jeff Bezos thinks that there are some similarities between the digital news business and his business (ecommerce)–and that no one in the news business has really capitalised on this yet.
On the Kindle, Amazon’s been very good at keeping distribution costs and platform costs to a minimum, while making their profits on the content delivered – low margins but at vast scale. It’ll be very interesting to see how this goes – and whether this really is a business venture for Bezos, a path to perceived old-media influence, a plaything or an interesting combination of all three.