130805170127-jeff-bezos-washington-post-620xaThe Wall Street Journal has taken a look at the mark Jeff Bezos has made on the Washington Post since buying it. There’s some focus on e-reading—Bezos insisted that the Post’s mobile app needed to have its load time cut down to “milliseconds,” and made some suggestions to help accomplish it—but by and large the emphasis is on the overall increased performance of the Post since Bezos took the helm.

As with Amazon, Bezos has made increasing customer satisfaction his priority for the paper. Also as with Amazon, he puts experimentation and building scale ahead of immediate financial gains—a strategy that has helped Amazon become the giant it currently is.

“He does not get involved in the journalism except to encourage us to hire the best journalists that we can,” [Publisher Fred] Ryan said. “He has really focused on the technology and customer side, which has been one of the hallmarks of Amazon. Our engineers have an open line to him and he has made his expertise available to us anytime.”

He must be doing something right. Since Bezos took over, the number of unique monthly visitors has nearly tripled to over 70 million, surpassing the number of visitors to the New York Times in October and coming in just behind digital media giant Buzzfeed.

Bezos has been a big booster for the importance of increasing digital subscribers and promoting itself with new digital content. Unlike most papers that are conservative about how many articles they share, the Post plans to publish all its stories on Facebook Instant Articles, it makes prodigious use of Apple News and Twitter Moments, and it has given free access to its digital edition to subscribers to dozens of partner newspapers.

The entire article is interesting, but perhaps the most interesting things are still to come. For perhaps the first time, Jeff Bezos is applying his entrepreneurial expertise to a completely different business than Amazon, in a completely different market role, and early results seem to suggest that Bezos’s Midas touch is indeed transferrable.

Amazon continues to break new ground every time you turn around, launching services like digital media streaming, e-book subscription services, and even free local delivery that you simply wouldn’t expect from an Internet retailer—and as a business, Amazon is a relative newcomer. What is Bezos going to make of a long-established newspaper given a few more years? Can he overcome the paywall problems other prominent papers are experiencing?

I really look forward to finding out.


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