A big, big deal

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt August 5, 2013

I don’t want to get my hopes up, because I know from my experience working in the newspaper industry (or any industry in this economy) that it can lead to heartbreak.

But for years my heart has been broken by the state of our newspapers and by the state of journalism, really. I’m a lucky man to have a full time job at any publication, much less a quality community paper. I’ve have so many friends who cannot say the same.

Today the Washington Post, the paper that brought down the Nixon administration, announced that it has a new owner: Amazon.com founder Jeffrey Bezos.

Bezos will pay $250 million. Another thing I noticed is that he will be the individual owner of WaPo, meaning it will no longer be part of a publicly-traded company.

That could be a welcome reprieve from the incessant demands of Wall Street investors who expect growth every year, even if it comes at the expense of content. I’ve long felt that newspapers aren’t going to thrive as part of publicly-traded companies. It’s hard enough to survive as a private company.

There are times when the truth is unprofitable.

The pressures of Wall Street were only exacerbated by the decision of newspapers to give the bulk of their content away for free via company websites. I have to admit, I thought this was a good idea at the time (which is why I’m a journalism major and not a business major). Now, hindsight being so clear and all, I realize we really shouldn’t have done that. Unfortunately, you can’t get that particular cow back in the barn.

You have to do something else.

But what? If I had the answer, I’d be doing a Scrooge McDuck impression, money bin and all. I think at this point you will never be able to monetize information. That won’t work. I am envisioning something closer to what Amazon already is doing with Kindle and what publications like the New Yorker are doing with tablet applications. You’ll be selling an all-encompassing reader experience, free of the constant distractions provided by the internet and its fire hose of information.

That’s my best guess. If anyone has the brains to make it work, assuming there’s any way it actually can work, it has to be this guy.

I don’t know this man. I don’t know his politics. I don’t know his opinions about journalism.

The only thing I know is that he’s made real money by providing products via the internet. As long as he has that on his resume, I don’t see how he can be bad for the WaPo and the industry as a whole.

Of course, I’ve been wrong before. I hope I’m right about this one.

In my daydream, I think of a moment 20 years from now when I look back and say this was the moment when the boat came and got Gilligan and his friends off the island.

Of course, the newspaper industry’s island didn’t involve coconut radios and a laugh track.

I digress.

Go Jeff, go.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Hopefully more Mark Cuban than Rupert Murdoch. If a newspaper is a public service and altruism by a zillionaire, so be it. Build the firewall. It is so obvious when they don’t.

    • I dunno if I’d call what Murdoch did altruism. 🙂

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