While the media world – jaws agape – has been trying to understand why Jeff Bezos would buy the Washington Post, much of the focus has been on the Amazon founder’s desire to buy influence around Capitol Hill. Perhaps. My guess is that’s more of an add-on. Bezos is far too intelligent to believe in the myth of the Mighty Post more than seeing the reality: that the glory is fading, fast.
But even if Bezos is buying the paper as a private citizen, rather than the CEO of Amazon.com, he will certainly gain valuable insights for his day job by running his own private media lab on the side. Let’s not forget that Amazon’s big push in publishing has been into both media devices (various forms of Kindle) and things people may want to read, watch, and listen to, on these devices. This includes experiments with long-form journalism, as the most simple form of branching out into news, coming from book publishing.
Next up in display technologies will be flexible, foldable screens – similar to newspaper pages, in fact. Except the newspaper of tomorrow will be able to download the newest Tweets, headlines, Facebook updates, and Amazon Instant Deals automatically, constantly, wherever users are.
So if you’re Jeff Bezos, how could it not be helpful to own one of these content factories to play around with and experiment, now that they’ve become a virtual bargain, thanks to the digital revolution?
Yes, much of this is still years away. But look at Amazon’s patience with IMDb and DPReview.com: Bezos bought both of them aeons ago (measured in Internet time), and both are only now realizing their full potential: IMDb is combining an entertainment database with celebrity stories and second-screen features, and DP Review marries product news and reviews with a loyal community of potential buyers that find special deals in DP Review’s own, branded photo shop.
If Bezos shows equal patience with the Washington Post, and a willingness to invest and experiment, the paper may well end up returning to its old glory – even if it stops being a “paper” altogether along the way.
Or maybe I’m all wrong, and Bezos is just looking for a dead-tree Kindle backup for his journey into space, as we all know that batteries don’t last forever, and WiFi coverage in outer orbit is rather patchy so far…