Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos demonstrated yesterday that he desperately needs a primer on the publishing business before he buys The Washington Post next month.
In his first interview since the purchase was announced, Bezos showed his
naivete about the industry with this comment:
“We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient. If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”
The last time I looked, the vast majority of American newspapers’ revenue came not from readers but from another type of customer – advertisers. Sure, perhaps Bezos knows better and decided to emphasize the noble journalistic side of the business rather than the grubby capitalist side.
But he didn't go out of his way to curry favor with advertisers: "I’m skeptical of any mission that has advertisers at its centerpiece."
Many of the Post’s advertisers, who view Amazon as a ruthless and even unfair competitor, are already wary of a Bezos-owned Post. Knowing that his vision for the Post apparently does not include pleasing them will do nothing to allay those fears.
Bezos needs to learn the first rule of owning a newspaper: Don’t piss off your advertisers; that’s what reporters are for.
Other Dead Tree Edition articles on the newspaper industry include: