Bezos, the Post & Innovation

Some interesting news Monday, when it was announced that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will purchase The Washington Post. Amazon won’t have an interest in the paper, however. It’s an all-Bezos investment; and one has to wonder what plans he has in store.

At this point in the Internet’s evolution, platforms are obviously ‘king’. Companies like Facebook and Google (and Amazon) are hyper-focused on being destinations, and owning a layer of web activity that controls user participation for extended periods.

Is Bezos looking to add an influential news property to this mix? If it was that straight forward, one would think Amazon would be involved directly. I mean, for a paltry $250M, Post visitors could have had some well-targeted web advertising, like this:

[An aside… This is a screen capture taken from my Post visit when hunting down this story. It seems that Amazon remembers that I’ve been looking for a cell phone range extender. These kinds of stalking remarketing averts on content sites offer an alternative to PPC, and perhaps a renewed interest in branding and influencing purchase decisions.]

So Bezos could have done this via Amazon, and probably made it worth Amazon’s while. But he didn’t. Which leads me to believe this is a Billionaire’s experimental ground. How big of an experiment? That’s unclear, but if Bezos is set on reinventing news publishing, it will be an interesting process to observe. For all genres of publishers, I suspect.

Online newspapers have a long history of being a “destination” themselves. Yet, part of the larger web ecosystem — a community player. Personally, I’m hoping we see a more ‘open’ version of the Washington Post, and that this paper can somehow start leading us back towards a more open Internet. We’ve toyed with closed web communities in the past (e.g., Compuserve, AOL), and always found our way back. Could the trust we have in the news media lead us away from the closed communities like Facebook? If I’m dreaming, this is part of a larger trend, and perhaps a part of the Bezos legacy.

Answering CNN’s question, “Which Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post?“, I’m hoping for the dabbling innovator. Doing something dramatic, while holding up the reputation and integrity of the Post, would be great.

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