It made headline news for a couple of days and then sort of faded into the background. The iconic Washington Post has been sold to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. The significance of this transaction is that, in an era when newspapers are losing readership and money, the new owner is the largest retailer on the World Wide Web and his company is a model for Internet sales.
There seems to be some kind of contradiction here. Bezos is known for enterprises that transcend national and even earthly boundaries. But the Post, one of the leading American newspapers, does not print an edition for distribution away from the East Coast, in general, and the national capital city, in particular. Although many of its articles are cited by other newspapers, its newsprint readership is mainly in the District of Columbia and its suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
On the other hand, Bezos made his reputation not in journalism, but in online merchandising, beginning with books, but now including a wide variety of products. Moreover, he has told the staff of the Post that nothing is going to change, but he is known as a micromanager who likes to have his hands on every aspect of his businesses. Apparently, this has proved to be effective. According to Forbes, Amazon’s stock soared by 55 percent in 2011.
This makes me wonder how long it will be before we see Bezos’s personal imprint in the newspaper, the only division of The Washington Post Corporation that was losing money. For years, its education division subsidized the newspaper. However, the influence of newspaper publishers has been in decline for decades. I wonder if Bezos will try to bring back the era when such moguls as Hearst and Pulitzer shaped pubic opinion...