Can newspapers be saved? It’s a tricky question, and one that has haunted a lot of newspapermen over the last ten years or so. And before you respond in the negative, consider this: What if the person trying to save them, or at least one of them, is Jeff Bezos?
Ars Technica reports that Jeff Bezos has just announced his intention to purchase The Washington Post newspaper and related publications for $250 million. The purchase is going through Bezos’s investment firm Explore Holdings LLC, rather than being rolled into Amazon. The Washington Post company, which owns a number of cable and TV assets as well as the Kaplan test preparation service, will carry on under a new name. The Post newspaper lost $14.8 million in the second quarter of 2003, while the rest of the company did well enough to tally over $93 million in total profits during that period.
Bezos is characteristically modest about his plans for the paper:
In an interview with the Post, Bezos dubbed the newspaper “an important institution” and was positive about its future. “I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation.”
But this is the man who built Amazon up from nothing into a mighty giant standing athwart the publishing world, and who has had one successful idea after the other. As the Post interview notes, Warren Buffett called Bezos “the ablest CEO in America.” Owning a paper, he should have the incentive to save it. And if he does save it, perhaps the way he does it can inspire others to do the same.
It’s also worth noting that Bezos has been long-time friends with Post CEO Donald Graham, who praised the Kindle e-reader back in 2008.
Regardless, it’s nice to see some news relating to Jeff Bezos that doesn’t have to do with publishers screaming bloody murder. Though just watch, I’ll bet the anti-Amazon spinmeisters will have a field day with this.