A good question and it has left many people wondering. Amazon's founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos (the current Steve Jobs of the e-industry but I wish him a long life!) paid $250 million for the Washington Post. To some, it looks like a pittance, after all he's a billionaire and can afford it. Others buy yachts, antique cars and islands in the Pacific. He likes a historic newspaper that is America's political clarion.
Good for him!
Indeed, the $250 million he paid could be considered generous: after all, this is a paper that's been bleeding money and subscribers - losses are substantial and readers are down to about half of what they were a decade ago. He paid much more than what the Boston Globe went for (only $70 million). Interestingly, the Globe had cost the Times Corp. $1 billion to purchase ten years ago.
Click here for a comprehensive New York Times article about this. I love the picture in that article of Bezos together with Donald Graham of the Washington Post (he's the third generation to lead the paper), Bezos is on the left, Graham on the right:
So all newspapers are in a downward spin, we know that. On the face of it, not a good investment. Why did Bezos do it?
He's not going to run the paper himself, he said so quite clearly, he likes his "daily job" in Seattle. He's not a political activist, merely a liberal with a small 'l': he supports gay marriage but he's against taxing the wealthy (small wonder).
Could it be nostalgia for the printed word? After all, Bezos launched Amazon with the business of selling printed books online (since then of course, he's famously branched into e-books and all manners of electronic goods). Presumably he likes the printed word. One would like to think so - especially me as a writer, I love printed books, the feel of the paper, the sense of owning a book, a precious product of the mind...
Could it be the latest fashion among billionaires? After all, Warren Buffett has recently bought a slew of newspapers. He believes in the strength of the printed word for local papers.
Could it be a clever way for Amazon to make itself heard on the Washington political scene? If so, it would be a very indirect voice because Washington Post journalists are not likely to let themselves be pushed around.
What do you think?