Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post. What does that mean for Amazon?

Jeff Bezos has stated that 'the values of The Post do not need changing.' But how will the move affect Amazon?

Reed Saxon/AP
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, recently announced he purchased The Washington Post.

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of online bookselling titan Amazon, has inked a deal to buy The Washington Post.

Bezos wrote a letter to the employees of the paper via the Post. In it, he acknowledged “many of you will greet [the news] with a degree of apprehension.”

“The values of The Post do not need changing," he wrote. "The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.... We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment…. Journalism plays a critical role in a free society, and The Washington Post – as the hometown paper of the capital city of the United States – is especially important. I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost.”

Bezos mentioned in the letter that “I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in 'the other Washington' where I have a day job that I love.” 

The newspaper was purchased by an entity that belongs to Bezos alone, not Amazon.

Donald E. Graham, CEO of the Washington Post Company and its chairman, said he and CEO and publisher of the Post Katharine Weymouth decided to sell after “years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders). Jeff Bezos' proven technology and business genius, his long-term approach and his personal decency make him a uniquely good new owner for the Post."

What does this mean for Amazon? Washington Post writer Lydia DePillis said she didn’t think the fact that Bezos purchased the newspaper on his own meant much.

“Don’t be deceived by the fact that Bezos is buying it himself, rather than Amazon,” she wrote. “There’s little reason to believe this is a passion project. It just would’ve been tricky to make it a public takeover, because corporations don’t know how to value a newspaper’s future earnings. And besides, though the markets have been remarkably patient with Amazon’s continued losses, a money pit like the Post would’ve been harder to stomach.”

As pointed out by independent bookstore newsletter Shelf Awareness, the fact that Bezos will own the premier newspaper of the nation’s capital is a little worrying for other booksellers, especially considering Amazon’s recent relationship with the government. 

“The major concern is that the purchase gives Bezos and Amazon much more influence in Washington than he already has, considering that the Justice Department has made life much easier for Amazon with the e-book agency model price collusion case and that President Obama last week began touting Amazon as a leader in creating good jobs and expanding the economy,” the staff wrote in a column. “All we can say is that for the people who have called us paranoid about Amazon's plans for world domination, we rest our case – nervously.”

New Yorker writer Matt Buchanan agreed that Amazon can only benefit from this move.

“Amazon could stand to gain from its C.E.O. owning one of the powerful and vocal institutions in Washington, D.C., given the company’s entanglements with legislation regarding the collection of sales tax, for instance, and the recent antitrust case pursued against its rival in the e-book business, Apple, by the Department of Justice,” he wrote. “And it would do well for one of the nation’s most respected papers to ignore or play down allegations of brutal work conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, where overtime can be mandatory, productivity rates approach unsustainability for many workers, and temperatures in the summer can reach a hundred degrees.”

Meanwhile, Business Insider writer Henry Blodget suggested that Amazon’s ongoing efforts to produce original content could dovetail with Bezos's ownership of the Post.

“Amazon distributes massive amounts of print and digital content,” he wrote. “The content the Washington Post publishes and distributes could be bundled or distributed with that content. And, similarly, the content that Amazon produces – mainly commerce-related, but increasingly media – could be integrated with the Washington Post's content, offering more choices for customers and consumers.... Subscribers to Amazon's 'Prime' delivery service already get to watch free movies and TV shows. Amazon Kindle buyers already have access to free books. It's easy to imagine that Prime subscribers and Kindle buyers will soon have convenient, free access to the Washington Post – and that this access might make a Prime subscription or Kindle ownership more valuable. Washington Post reporters, meanwhile, could produce an endless supply of ebooks and Kindle Singles.”

All of which could be good news for both the Post and for Amazon. But for the rest of us?

Fasten your seatbelt and stay tuned. 

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