Will Amazon and Washington Post Work Together? Who Knows?!

Companies' future relationship is unclear, if they ever have one, analysts say

While the media industry reels from the news of Jeff Bezos purchasing The Washington Post, it's still anyone's guess about what the Amazon founder plans to do with the paper. An even more intriguing question is, will Amazon and the Post even mingle? Or steer clear of each other?

Bezos, it's worth reiterating, bought the Post with his own cash. But will the Internet company influence the Post's coverage, design, use of data, management structure? On the flip side, will elements of the Post, which still publishes a ton of quality news content, be incorporated into Amazon's ever-expanding online media universe?

Adweek reached out to a few analysts for answers. Spoiler alert: At this early stage, there aren't many.

"It's very unclear to what extent Amazon will be involved whatsoever," said Clark Fredricksen, vp of eMarketer. "I think it's very speculative, generally, to say that Amazon will be integrated into The Washington Post or vice versa."

In the short term, though, observers should expect nothing much to change at the Post, at least according to BGC Financial senior analyst Colin Gillis.

"In the longer term," Gillis added, "[Bezos is] going to ask for the team to experiment with more customization, to focus on the digital part of the business, perhaps to try to run the business at break even."

The way both companies are run is one thing. But in terms of content and commerce, Gillis doesn't expect to see much overlap between the Post and Amazon. "You cross a major line when you commingle your investments," he said, adding that users aren't likely to receive a hard copy of The Washington Post with the latest Amazon-shipped DVD.

Still, the Post's Lydia DePillis published an interesting take on Monday looking at ways the two businesses could mix. Media analyst Alan Mutter told DePillis that even though Bezos personally bought the Post, "he can use all the tools that are available to Amazon. And if he does something with The Washington Post brand that advances the story for Kindle or Amazon Prime, they aren’t going to mind.”

And over at Slate (which is owned by The Washington Post Co. but not part of the sale), David Auerbach argued that Bezos should take the Post's news content and plug it into Amazon and Kindle (link courtesy of Politico).

"Think of the possibilities! The Post could show up as your browser start page; it can show up in the 'special offers' that accompany the discounted Kindle," Auerbach wrote. "It can show up on Amazon product pages, alongside e-book libraries, you name it."

Business Insider CEO and editor in chief Henry Blodget echoed Auerbach's point. Blodget, whose site has received capital from Bezos, wrote: "Amazon distributes massive amounts of print and digital content. The content The Washington Post publishes and distributes could be bundled or distributed with that content. And, similarly, the content that Amazon produces—mainly commerce-related, but increasingly media—could be integrated with The Washington Post's content, offering more choices for customers and consumers."

Fredricksen, meanwhile, acknowledged that it's conceivable that the two companies could work together, but it's hard to say what form that relationship would take.

Whatever happens, Bezos' approach will be influenced by his experience with Amazon. He has a well-deserved reputation of being a disrupter of traditional business models, said Susan Bidel, an analyst at Forrester Research. "If there's a traditional business around, it's the newspaper business," she said.