The Return On Jeff Bezos’ Investment In “The Washington Post” Could Be Huge

If Jeff Bezos can do for 'WaPo' what he did for books, he'll be a legend.

Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post reconfirms that the newspaper industry is hurting, that the media industry is still in a state of flux, and that no matter how digital content gets, we still have a soft spot for ink. A venerable, old school newspaper that was founded in 1877 was bought by someone who has made their fortune in e-commerce and the news took over Twitter, with “WaPo,” “Washington Post,” and “Jeff Bezos” all trending at some point in the past 24 hours. It truly shows how mixed up and tremendous the media is right now.

As with any change at a media outlet, we wait to see if there will be shifts in the newsroom. Publicists who pitch WaPo are likely preparing for any changes to their media relations strategy. And we can’t forget that there are other properties impacted by this sale. The Root, Slate, and a number of other newspapers and properties are being separated from their anchor, which could also affect their futures. Though we can’t forget that the anchor lost 44 percent of its operating revenue in the past six years.

Clearly, this deal gives The Washington Post the opportunity to not just hover on the edge of survival, but to actually thrive. For Bezos, the paper’s success would reap more than just monetary fortunes.

Bezos is worth $25 billion, give or take. And, according to Politico, he has a history of making “big bets.” He has a reputation for investments that require a good chunk of cash and time to develop.

“He will be the first technology mogul to own a major U.S. newspaper, and The Post’s success will hinge on how an Internet revolutionary tackles a company that still has to worry about printing presses and the price of ink,” the site says.

… “Bezos could bring an entirely new sensibility, forged in building one of country’s most successful Internet companies, to transforming a newspaper whose glory days exist in faded yellow clippings,” the story continues. He’s already done it for the book publishing industry.

That’s precisely what the newspaper industry needs. Someone with a lot of money, the willingness to spend it, and the experience with digital content to not only bring fresh thinking, but to listen to lots of ideas, which we’re sure WaPo staffers have. His plan to remain in Seattle shows his confidence in the paper’s existing brainpower.

Should The Washington Post come out on the other side of this much better off, it would show the strength of that brand and talent working in the WaPo offices, things that have never really been in question. The stellar PR will be for Bezos, who will then be able to talk about the long-shot investment he made and how it turned to gold. He will be looked upon as a man with a golden touch, great foresight, and a unique knack for the modern content business. Slate writes:

 As a businessman, Bezos has three signature traits. He’s relentlessly focused on pleasing customers, even to the short-term detriment of his company’s bottom line. He’s uncommonly patient, willing to give good ideas years to play out before expecting a pay off. (That’s related to another trait—his ability to beguile markets into giving him carte blanche to do whatever he wants, even skate by on razor-thin profits indefinitely.) Most importantly, though, Bezos is fascinated by novel business models; he’s constantly on the hunt for new ways to sell groceries, cloud services, media, and everything else (see Amazon Prime, Web Services, etc.).

Together, there are a world of exciting possibilities.