Journalism plays a critical role in a free society

That's the money quote from Jeff Bezos' awesome letter to the employees of the Washington Post. The medium has changed from print to online and in the process so has the profitability of these important journalistic enterprises.

But the role of journalism in our society is more critical than ever, in particular good journalism which has struggled to make the transition from print to online. Jeff acknowledges this in his letter:

I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost.

That's exactly right. Kudos to Jeff Bezos for using his capital to invest in something this important to our world. Super impressive move.

#Current Affairs

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    because of Snowden we now know of the power and reach of the National Security Letter.are newspapers and journalists shackled and silenced by same or similar?

    1. fredwilson

      i do not think good journalism is shackled by anythingthat was Bezos point about following the story, no matter the cost

      1. jason wright

        i hope he is willing to run the WP at a loss to protect good journalism from the censoring power of advertisers (corporations) and lobbyists (corporations).AND…makes it available to purchase online with bitcoin and the the age of virtual currencies all newspaper articles should be free to read, allowing the reader to assert approval with a micropayment to the journalist/ publication. thus readers influence copy rather than corporates.

        1. Ryan Frew

          That’s a bold assertion. In what other industries are the product providers expected to provide for an optional cost? Readers having sole influence over copy would also create one sided publications just like we have today. We have to figure out a way to create profitability alongside unbiasedness though, I agree.

          1. jason wright

            expected? he has the wealth to experiment in an entrepreneurial way.i assume he has a plan. he should be bold, counter intuitive, and contrarian.

          2. Ryan Frew

            Agree 100%. I just don’t think or hope that that’s it. Journalism should not always be conducted for the approval of readers. Otherwise you get a totally biased publication like Gawker, which I doubt has an external corporate agenda.

          3. jason wright

            i don’t disagree.micropayments would allow for pluralism within a publication and encourage debate from all sides. a newspaper written for a particular constituency creates a bunker mentality.

          4. awaldstein

            Interesting but I have no idea what this means:”micropayments would allow for pluralism within a publication”

          5. laurie kalmanson

            gawker is in the same bucket with the supermarket tabloids; no agenda beyond page views

          6. Ryan Frew

            Pretty much. But they have a loyal following and, to maintain those pageviews, they appeal to that following with the same over-the-top liberal bias time and time again. I’m suggesting that we would find similar outcomes with micropayments among more publications.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          The real censoring power (and the power to do worse than censoring) belongs to government, not corporations. The hometown paper of the US government ought to have a renewed vigilance in speaking truth to and about that power. In time, we’ll see if it does.

          1. SubstrateUndertow

            “The real censoring power (and the power to do worse than censoring) belongs to government, not corporations.”Haven’t those two institutions effectively merged at this point ?The FED being a prime example!

      2. Anne Libby

        So while “media” may scale, good journalism doesn’t…

        1. ShanaC

          nope. especially when you talk about local journalism (really doesn’t scale)

          1. laurie kalmanson

            in the golden age, the revenue was like the old phone companyas expensive long distance calls cross subsidized universal service, so ads and people who bought the paper for the fashion section and the sports page subsidized the investigations and the foreign bureaus

          2. ShanaC

            pretty much, but fashion blogs now cover a lot of those sorts of things (and better)

          3. laurie kalmanson

            this is true

          4. Anne Libby

            I was absolutely thinking about this, Shana!

          5. ShanaC

            i speak from experience 😉

          6. Anne Libby

            This would be a good place for an emoticon, if that was how I rolled.

      3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        So if Snowden had offered himself up as a “deep throat” (watergate not porn) and a Journalist covered it no matter the cost -Would a journalist exercising the Freedom of Speech constitute being a traitor ?If not – then it seems critics of whistle-blowers are in danger of prosecuting the media not the message.I think this answers the traitor vs hero question elegantly.If you love freedom of speech and value truth you must believe that Snowden must speak up – regardless of consequence

      4. pointsnfigures

        I don’t think WAPO remotely does that in many cases. Many.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Because of a journalist and newspaper (Greenwald and The Guardian) we know who Snowden is.

  2. LIAD

    it was his wife’s doing.she asked him to pick her up The Washington Post on his way home from work yesterday. She didn’t specify she meant just a copy.

    1. fredwilson

      ha! did you make that up? it is very good

      1. LE

        Bezos is honking at that as well.

    2. William Mougayar

      Maybe if she asked for some milk too, you think he might have purchased a cow farm with the goal of getting rid of hormones, antibiotics & feedlots?

      1. laurie kalmanson

        loaf of bread … organic non gmo wheat …

    3. ShanaC


    4. William Mougayar

      Another theory is that he’s had it on his Amazon “Wish List” for a while, but the NSA hacked his account, and inadvertently did a 1-click purchase.

    5. Darth Vincent

      Wonder which wife in this world would read a newspaper at the end of the day ?? A blonde kind 🙂

  3. awaldstein

    The thought that he bought the paper to run it at a loss forever is illogical.Thrilled to have journalism supported (I read the Times every day online), but the idea that journalism like the government needs to be run at a loss seems somehow wrong.There’s a plan. Maybe long term but this is not a gift to a non profit. I don’t buy that something so valuable can’t also have a model that makes money.

    1. fredwilson

      i totally agree. i hope i didn’t suggest otherwise in my post.

      1. JimHirshfield

        I don’t think you did. I have the exact opposite opinion: Bezos isn’t doing this to lose money. If anyone can make this profitable, he can.

        1. kidmercury

          agreed, i think he saw something that he believed was deeply undervalued.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Right…let’s not forget that Bezos has been in publishing for quite some time. Not newspapers, but publishing nonetheless.

          2. kidmercury

            he also bought a piece of business insider within the past year. so i think he has some type of grand media plan. both acquisitions were personal, not amzn.

          3. SubstrateUndertow

            So that is why business insider is always bashing Apple !Hold your horses now! I’m just kidding.

      2. laurie kalmanson

        content marketing with e-commerce linksnewspapers have always been reluctant to have a link to an album in a music review

    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Arnold – I think some things are extremely valuable but do not have models for making money. Where this is the case it is often because humanity has not yet found a model that works.An example (however simple) is clean streets – Staying clean costs a tiny bit of time and effort. However the beneficiaries are anonymous and thinly spread, none-the-less we each want other people to practice the social good of taking trash home.It requires an enlightened society to mutually act against personal interest to prevent a descent to the lowest common denominator (each man for himself).Enlightened self-interest has an easy bit and a hard bit – the self-interest is easy (it dominates in many societal problems – petty theft, over-fishing, energy waste, exploitative behaviours, fraud – each is another “tragedy of the commons” or “common -interest”).The harder part is enlightenment – because it implies education, awareness of consequence, open-minds and sources of data – all of which carry costs. By its nature the funds must be raised de-centrally by an ideally supportive but disinterested party.The Washington Post has a role to reduce the cost of each of the above and has played this well in the past.While numerically insufficient contributors will pay for objective information, either objectivity, or viability suffers, or a great role for philanthropy arises.Perhaps that is the case here. I can’t judge whether or not philanthropy is in play here – but I agree it is needed until society learns to share its burdens with its benefits.

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks for this thoughtful response.I approach the world from the other side.When I’ve designed online and instore systems, I always consider the shoplifter and hacker the corner case. Certainly you have to protect against them but not at the expense of the majority.It’s proven true and I believe it is true in general.Culture has evolved dramatically over the last 2 decades. We don’t throw garbage on the streets, we clean up after our dogs, the level of philanthropic donations has skyrocketed, the visibility of treatment for children and people in general, the treatment of animals, the responsibility for the health of the planet.You assume the trajectory of culture and build towards it.I don’t have an answer for the business model of journalism. But if it truly has value (which I think it does) there is a model. If not, it will go away.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          >>I approach the world from the other side.I also “assume the trajectory of culture and build towards it”. – I pay minimum insurance, keep contracts simple etc because I see trolling and ambulance-chasing and litigative attitudes as the darkest of non-wealth producing self-interests – I try to see the best in others.And – I welcome competition – it creates attention.To say culture has evolved dramatically over the last 2 decades may be stretching it – I would see it more as the pendulum swinging back towards awareness of responsibilities as well as rights – And that is great if true (especially regards the global environment).So keep building !Foreign policy (expansionism vs detente) is another area where this pendulum swings. But is seems that the pivot point is sometimes moved by powerful interests !

          1. awaldstein

            Agree…I am not powerful or wealthy enough to change foreign perception or buy newspapers.I do what I can and just assume the world I want and act towards it. Start companies. Write what I think.Touching thousands daily is my way of inching forward.

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Respect – but if you struggle to buy newspapers – if you ever come to Europe do pick up a newspaper at the newsstand and I will gladly foot the bill :)@liad:disqus Hat tip on humour !

          3. Richard

            What do you mean by you pay minimum insurance?

          4. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            I see a litigious society as one damned to pay a parasitic “tax” to lawyers and ambulance chasers.Insurance is profitable for providers (the market makes it so) therefore to self-insure is rational if you can afford the loss.This is only the selfish reason that I insure my car-driving for third party liability cover onlyBut – to do more is to encourage those that seek to profit from the misfortune of others.Frivolous medical suits reward lawyers and are a burden on any healthcare – the idea that a doctor (by default) is considered diligent and should generally be protected has been lost.The transfer of wealth in that trust repositioning is from the public to the legal practitioners – I feel it should be inhibited wherever possible. So I insure to the minimum of legal requirements.

          5. LE

            “Frivolous medical suits reward lawyers and are a burden on any healthcare”I had a conversation with an older personal injury lawyer (head of a multi lawyer firm) at a wedding recently. He told me that in his state (Illinois) the game has changed and they won’t take on any suit that have dubious merit. The reason being is both a change in state laws and also the fight they get from the insurance companies who don’t just roll over. Also juries (in that state) apparently no longer side with the Plaintiff because of all the health care costs they personally pay and they have linked suits to their own interests. Things are not seen as an easy win anymore. Many years ago in college used to do photography for PI attorneys so I know how easy it was for them to make money. I was literally told to “go out and just find a sidewalk with a crack and take a picture of it” (that’s an exaggeration to make a point.)Bottom line seemed to be that (once again he made it clear he was only speaking about his state and he thought the same was true in Texas but wasn’t sure) the goose that laid the golden egg was gone.

          6. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            LE – Glad to hear it .Ultimately I suppose a market driven system should correct itself but it can take too long for the pendulum to swing. During that time when though simple clear statutes and reasoned settlement are appropriate – the burden of legal advice is not advantageous.

          7. Nick Ambrose

            Thats excellent to hear. Hopefully that will eventually lead to a decrease in “Defensive medicine” which I think is where the real hidden cost is here.While the actual monetary cost of the lawsuits may be relatively small, I think (but admit I lack a reference) that the cost of doctors over-testing and over-prescribing is much much larger as they try to CYA.A friend of mine just had huge personal expenses in that regard because she did not order a specific test (that wasn’t even indicated), but a board of doctors who seem pretty removed from the world up on their high-horses found that since she “coudda” ordered it then she was at fault, and was to be admonished … now she will have to over-test and overdo things or face further actions and over $50K in personal costs /…..

        2. ShanaC

          I’ve seen people throw garbage in the street. It definitely got better since the city made street cleaners an official job (nd did in a time where it used to be political patronage and didn’t do it that way)….Before that, for some people in some areas, it was profitable to keep the street clean and make a profit.The question is do you believe news is for all or for an elite who will pay above a certain amount?

          1. awaldstein

            Great question that I’m not sure of my answer honestly.I can’t imagine a price on newspapers that makes it elite. We can argue about that price but I believe that pay people will for value.Culturally the value needs to be there, If it is, the economics will follow.

          2. ShanaC

            depends. You price it too high and it will be like streetcleaners before it became a public good, only for elites/full of manipulative stuff

          3. LE

            “I’ve seen people throw garbage in the street.”You are to young to remember people driving in cars and just throwing trash out the window as they drove. Or it being more the norm to just throw trash on the street while walking when done.

          4. ShanaC

            this is true. doesn’t mean I haven’t seen either

          5. SubstrateUndertow

            <blockquotes>”The question is do you believe news is for all or for an elite who will pay above a certain amount?”</blockquotes>The analogue I like is:Meaningfully accurate News is to societywhatMeaningfully accurate Sensory-Input is to the individualthe associative overhead bears directly on collective/individual self-interest and survivalthat puts properly financed, multi-sourced, triangulated-perspective news up there with water and sewer utilitiessome form of mandatory collective financing seems only prudent for such a basic and vital social functionThat is, of course, a giant can of worms and I have no idea how it should be opened.

        3. Matt A. Myers

          I have a feeling it will have to lead to a crowdfunding model whereby people specifically fund people and interests they care about or want further research or insight found into, etc.. I’m not sure how this will come to be though.

          1. mcbeese

            No, I don’t think so. Well, maybe to some degree. I think the subscription model works, but newsprint doesn’t work anymore. An app is no replacement for a newspaper because it doesn’t command the same attention as a single purpose media product. Advertisers understand this so a LOT of advertising money is being left on the table as we migrate to digital. Bezos gets this. He already launched the Kindle Fire tablet because the Kindle App didn’t command enough attention on general purpose tablets.Bezos is going after the market for digital newspapers – Kindle Fire newspapers – and the ‘front page’ advertising rates that will come with it.You won’t sell an ‘Android tablet’ to my Dad. You will easily sell him a NYT tablet subscription with facebook and email.

    3. Brandon Burns

      Who says Bezos’ plan is to run WaPo at a loss?

      1. awaldstein

        was responding to comments below.what interests me not is that he’s saved the paper (which he has) but he has an inkling of how to turn it into a biz.

    4. laurie kalmanson

      look at the dead and gone chains; they printed money for a long time: times mirror, knight ridder, etc

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Maybe if they had extracted less profit and reinvested more into creating actionable investigative value for the reader they could still be charging for online access?What constitutes political or socially ACTIONABLE-VALUE to readers within the context of modern journalism?Is it possible to create and embed a networked-array of one-click political or socially actionable-App-behavours directly into the journalistic news stream.Maybe even merge news with forms of App-driven social activism or even App-driven elements of causally-distributive-governance.Governance is pivotal to the universal human food fight. Surly merging robust investigative news with the public-service-value of facilitating actionable-elements of causally-distributive direct-governance holds great monetization potenial?Jeff Bezos seems like the kind of creative visionary who just might be able to pull something like that off.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          this is awesome

        2. laurie kalmanson

          post here…

    5. laurie kalmanson

      knight ridder printed money for a long timethey should have invented craigslist…Knight Ridder was an American media company, specializing in newspaper and Internet publishing. Until it was bought by The McClatchy Company on June 27, 2006, it was the second-largest newspaper publisher in the United States, with 32 daily newspapers sold. Its headquarters were located in San Jose, California.Knight Ridder had a long history of innovation in technology. It was the first newspaper publisher to experiment with videotex when it launched its Viewtron system in 1982

      1. PhilipSugar

        If you wanted to define the classic innovators dilemma this would be it. You would have to get somebody to sign off on killing your huge cash cow of classifieds.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          exactly … and foresee that if you don’t do it somebody else will so you might as well go first

        2. laurie kalmanson

          related: did blacksmiths invest in automobiles

    6. Aaron Klein

      I completely agree. And if there is anyone who can invent a new and sustainable model for journalism, it’s Jeff Bezos.That being said, there are probably easier and lower-risk higher-return ways to invest $250 million. And taking the hard road because journalism is important to a free society is indeed noble.

      1. awaldstein

        This one is really hard.The business of unbiased information is almost a contradiction in terms.

        1. Aaron Klein

          True to a great extent.At the same time, I don’t know why e-commerce can’t support great journalism. If I’m thinking about buying the Moto X, I’m going to be a voracious consumer of journalism’s product to help me decide. The theory has always been that one-click buying beside an article would skew stories to drive sales.Somehow I doubt that. No quicker way to destroy trust with your audience. And only a degree off from letting Moto do useless banner ads on your site.

          1. awaldstein

            Value breeds monetization. In abstract for certain.I agree one-click buying is still an idea without a consumer behavior to prove it.The interesting thing here is that Amazon’s great innovation was to give the consumer the soap box to review the product in many ways killing the need for most things from refrigerators to vacuum cleaners to look up anything else. I’ve stretched the truth here but giving voice to the consumer reviewer did indeed impact the business of editorial review.

          2. Aaron Klein

            I’m not positive we agree, only because I think that frictionless one click ordering while devouring content about something I’m deeply interested in is a perfect display of intent and action.Journalism has long created friction because they’re worried people will think the algorithm poses a conflict.And while I often look at consumer reviews, I trust a great writer from the Verge way more when it comes to deciding if a device is for me.

          3. awaldstein

            90% of everything i buy comes from personal referrals. I trust these the most honestly.Something significant, like a commerce system, I’ll go from the referral to reviews and details.I can’t think of anything of significance that I’ve bought that wasn’t corroborated with someone in network.

          4. Aaron Klein

            I’m not sure why I don’t do that. Once in a while, I do. Got some great responses Sunday about iTunes Match.

          5. awaldstein

            Personal networks are one of our greatest assets.

          6. LE

            “And while I often look at consumer reviews”Many times consumer reviews follow a pattern I discovered many years ago with customer complaints (in the printing business).If you did one thing to piss someone off they then started to nit pick and do what I would call at the time “build a case” against you like they were an attorney. They would find a million little things that would never bother them if that one big thing hadn’t happened. And that really didn’t matter compared to the major thing that upset them. (Avoid that major thing and all is good.)This is the frustrating thing about using tripadvisor to get a feel of a hotel. It takes so much effort to read and parse the reviews which many times seem like someone did something wrong initially “and then it was down hill from there” and they find bugs all over the place.While people whose job it is to review can suffer the same issues you would hope that they would be a bit more circumspect in what they say simply because they are professional reviewers and weigh the importance of a single factor and not get all distracted.

          7. Aaron Klein

            Boy, I totally agree with that.Amazon reviews are pretty good. You have to take negative ones with a grain of salt but if a product has piled up a load of bad reviews on very specific issues, that is something I trust.TripAdvisor reviews are almost worthless to me. Hotel rooms are so different from each other, and the feeling people get from hotel rooms is highly subjective. And yes, they seem to obsess about trivial issues at times.I have stayed at hotels that I loved, and happened to look at reviews later, and you’d think it was the seventh circle of hell.

          8. laurie kalmanson

            sadly there are all the paid review scams happening by untruthful marketers

          9. LE

            “refrigerators to vacuum cleaners” “killing the need”The reviews are great and I also rely on them for some decisions. But they don’t take into account longer term issues with products that a reviewer in his immediate mania about how great something is might overlook or not be aware of.Most people don’t return later to update reviews (although some do). It recently cost me something like $110 to fix a flat on my car tire (it’s a very wide tire and only some shops have machines to handle it. Something I found out only when I got a flat. ). Not something I would have known about had I written a review of that car.Consequently you could say that products are developed keeping in mind what someone sees short term since there aren’t reviewers around to judge the long term impact of product decisions. The thrill is gone at that point.This to an extent has always been the case. You don’t add a feature if the consumer won’t perceive it as a benefit at the point of purchase and it won’t increase sales. Generally at least.

          10. LE

            “And only a degree off from letting Moto do useless banner ads on your site.”A breast or other private part is only a degree off from a part of the body that you can touch with no problem or implied sexual meaning. But it’s off limits. Same person same body “touch this” but “don’t touch that”. (Sometimes inches will get you put in jail, right?)Besides banner ads and/or other advertising is already grandfathered into being thought to be acceptable and that thought is what matters. Same thing (as just mentioned) that allows me to touch you here but not there. Legacy and by what’s been defined over time as acceptable. So you can’t make that comparison.Not saying that can’t be changed but it certainly isn’t viewed that way today in people’s mind.You could call it an “arms length” practice.

          11. Aaron Klein

            Notwithstanding your titillating analogy, there are a lot of useless “distinctions without a difference” in this world. I think this is one of them.

          12. laurie kalmanson

            the small town paper is more likely to succumb to the pressures of the small town brand x auto dealer than the national paper, that turns it around by accepting ads from allin theory

      2. JamesHRH

        This is <1% of his estimated net worth…..I think he sees it as a risk worth taking.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Agreed. My point is just that he’s not doing it purely for money. There are easier ways to make great returns on $250MM.

    7. LE

      “The thought that he bought the paper to run it at a loss forever is illogical.”And in fact it would be impossible to state a goal that profits do not matter anymore than it would be to state that winning a sports game does not matter.If there is no push for profits there is no control on the organization and no rationalization to be efficient or to cut costs or to no give raises the list is endless. That pressure has to be there for the organization to run efficiently and for things to not get out of hand.But as I said in another comment I don’t think what he meant by “no matter the cost” refered to monetary cost but the impact and who or what is affected by any story that is run in the paper.

    8. Nate Quigley

      Totally agree. I’m sure he sees an opportunity. Doesn’t strike me as a non-profit guy. A visionary with long-term view who believes in giant scale and low margins. WaPo will be different, but bigger not smaller.Here’s some ideas on the newspaper business model question. Clark Gilbert did his doctoral work at HBS on the newspaper industry back in 2000. Was prophet of doom when industry was at its peak. Then helped Clayton Christensen start and grow the consulting firm Innosight. In the last 3 years he’s turned around the Deseret News. I think he knows the newspaper industry as well as anyone. No doubt Bezos has a plan too.http://www.americanpressins

      1. awaldstein

        Good info, thanks!

    9. leigh

      I had seen a talk by someone at the Guardian a number of years ago about their syndication stream — in their user agreement, one had to agree that if they take the API stream of content then the Guardian could at some point feed advertising to it. I always thought that was so smart both from a revenue and data POV. Never really knew what happened with it.Do think though that newspapers aren’t going to go away, but we will have fewer and more Global – the real issue is that there really isn’t a Global paid advertising model for purchasing mediaThings that make you go hum………

      1. William Mougayar

        Twitter is doing serving ads via their API & LinkedIn is doing same soon. I don’t get what the issue is with a global pub & ads. Serving the ad is localized based on where the user is, anyways, right?

        1. leigh

          it’s not the way media buying is done. Media companies, with specific budgets working in specific countries — it’s why companies like Twitter end up with Sales (sorry i mean Corporate offices) in places like Toronto.

      2. awaldstein

        There are very few global ones now actually. I read NYT and WSJ on line everyday wherever I am.Which others are there really?

        1. William Mougayar

          The Independent is global, but it’s very political I think. BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera…but again, very political. HuffPo is expanding internationally and hiring their own reporters.

          1. awaldstein

            CNN and HuffPro aren’t newspapers in my opinion.And to compare the level of Journalism in Huffpro to the NYTimes or Post or WSJ?

          2. William Mougayar

            I agree, but that’s where we’re at. If you take out the political parts, AJE is doing good investigative journalism on world issues especially on the environment for e.g. their Earthrise section

        2. leigh

          In Canada we have the Globe & Mail

          1. awaldstein

            Realized that when I wrote the comment I was thinking that there was no civilization off our little island here ;)Used to live in Vancouver and have accounts in Toronto but been that long since I read it honestly.

  4. Tom Labus

    The Post has an incredible history of integrity.They withstood the pressure from the Nixon Admin to dump Watergate stories and this was when the paper was not that big or very financially strong. The Admin told them they would lose their cable and other licenses if they didn’t cooperate and that would have doomed them financially.…This is a great history of the paper.

    1. LE

      “The Post has an incredible history of integrity.”Well first that was in a different era and circumstances (as well as even though some of the people are still around involved, most aren’t).Noting also that “60 Minutes” had a great reputation as well until that tobacco story came up and they blinked and didn’t run the story they were originally going to run.

      1. falicon

        That is the challenge with any reputation…it takes a lifetime to build and a second to ruin…

  5. opoeian

    Nice short informative post. Love your work. But just because I feel like expressing an opinion today I’d like to say I don’t think it is that ‘Journalism plays a critical role in a free society’, but it is ‘unbiased journalism’ is what plays a critical role in a free society. Which is what you describe here as ‘good journalism’. Biased journalism imposes an opinion over others rather than presenting the facts and giving people the ‘freedom’ to make up their own minds.Then, as usual, someone wants to step into the discussion at this stage and say, but the reader has the choice, the freedom, to not read that journalists article or paper. Which of course is an attempt to ‘change the subject’. The issue here is not about what the reader can do. The subject is journalism and it’s actions. From the reader’s perspective they do have the freedom to not read. But from the journalist’s perspective they can either print stuff that gives people the freedom to choose or not. Which in turns determines whether or not their own acts of journalism ‘play a critical role in a “free” society’. Ok, I’ve had my winge for the day.

    1. ShanaC

      is there such thing as unbiased journalism?

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        What makes you say that ?

        1. ShanaC

          because everyone has revealed or unrevealed biases.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            there are biases, but there is also truth and lies

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Was meant to be humorous 😉 ie that everything done is somehow motivated

          3. ShanaC

            sometimes I am way too literal minded

      2. laurie kalmanson

        objective reporting was invented with the telegraph and the railroads as a platform for mass market mass media advertising, as newspapers changed from partisan and local journals delivered by horses to local readers to publications that served larger audiencesobjective is a stance; partisan is a stance.i prefer good reporting on top of a stated agenda. talkingpointsmemo is a great example: straightforwardly progressive, with hardcore good reporting standardsjust making things up doesn’t count (fox news)

        1. ShanaC

          how is objective a stance? We all have filters we’re blind to

          1. laurie kalmanson

            there’s trying to be objective — i disagree with you but you have valid points, which i will present fairly — and there’s wildly partisan; if you say it’s raining, when it actually is, i will say it is noti like partisan and accurate: talkingpointsmemo is clearly and self professedly liberal and progressive and they do solid reporting on facts

      3. opoeian

        Touche! Great question. Ultimately, no. But there is a clear distinction between attempts at unbiased journalism and obvious biases eg: a newspaper taking one political side over another. I’m suggesting here that one set of actions contributes to a free society and another taketh away. One contributes to the problem (the continual cycle of one-side vs the other side), and one contributes to a solution. For example in the world of startups, it is the role of a disruptive entrepreneur is to look beyond the ‘us versus them’ game established industries find them selves in (ie Music industry vs Independents) and instead attempt to find/enable solutions (iTunes/LastFm).

        1. ShanaC

          It is really hard to say if definitely a less combative, more unbiased posed journalism is better in a post-idenity politic era. I know already that we all have biases. But is hiding the bias really bringing us together or just not acknowledging their existence

          1. opoeian

            I don’t think it is an either/or situation. It is not up to me or anyone in particular to ‘control’ the state of journalism to say it must be unbiased, or to say anything goes because ‘we all have biases’. It is what it is, as far as I’m concerned. So nothing should he hidden from journalistic expression (well, except for hate-speech inciting religious or state sanctioned terrorism and war-mongering – but that’s where I personally draw the line).Its more to do with the context of Fred’s blog in reference to a ‘free society’. It could be said that the more biased a country’s news/information-oulets are the less ‘free’ the society is. As an extreme example think of dictatorships such as in Burma, which controls every article printed. If there is truth in this, then if we live in a society where part of the news-outlets push their own agenda (with a customer base who support them), then this is a reasonably good pointer in determining just how ‘free’ our own society is. And similarly on a personal level, if we are someone who advocates a ‘free society’ but spends our time reading newspapers/information which continually favours one view over another (expressing a bias), then I think we are simply fooling ourselves.Another way of putting it is the relationship between professional and amateur journalism. The more unbiased it is the more professional the journalism. The more a news-outlet pushes one view over another, like pushing one political party over another (rather than presenting people with the facts and allowing them the freedom to make up their own minds), the more amateur or less-professional the news organisation is. And it’s ok to call them up on this.

      4. pointsnfigures

        It is not unbiased- but objective mixed with critical thinking. Ezra Klein and his posse are a bunch of sheep. Hacks with an agenda. Believe me I know from personal experience.

        1. opoeian

          I like the bit about objective with critical thinking

      5. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I actually think that journalism is *not* supposed to be unbiased. It is supposed to be biased towards being a check on power. And I think that’s how the founders viewed it (although I’m not the type to get hung up on what the founders intended because they were a bunch of rich white guys).The reason I think it is called the 4th estate is because of its critical role in questioning and examining power. This role is perverted when journalism, itself, becomes subject to power.So, while I hope Bezos does great things with WaPo, I am never that pleased when power comes along to save the day. I’d rather see WaPo do a Kickstarter, or something.

        1. ShanaC

          most newspaers are not doing that. The 4th estate is also an annex of power, which many via prestige still enjoy in the newspaper business

  6. Richard

    The question i have is why amazon? Did the WAPO shop this around? Hasn’t warren buffet been purchasing newspapers lately? Isn’t buffet a large shareholder of the Washington Post? Doesn’t Facebook also have relationship with Washington Post? How does a money loser like the Washington Post have P/E ratio of 40? Woodward & Burnstein where are you 🙂

    1. JimHirshfield

      Not AMZN. Just Bezos.

  7. kidmercury

    it pains me to say it, but that letter from bezos is total b corp. almost seems like a lying thief like jobs wrote it.washington post is the original mockingbird, the publication the CIA used and probably still uses to promote its agenda and control the news.also, folks who talk about the importance of quality journalism but then ignore kookology, 9/11 truth, and the journalists who bring it to light are full of b corp. oh wow, guess i just straight up dissed practically the entire fredland community. damn.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      up voted for being a direct communicator !

  8. William Mougayar

    The key part that stuck with me in that Letter is the forewarning on Experimentation & Innovation as upcoming imperatives.Bezos’ wit comes thru in the letter, implying that just as using judgement for when to pursue or not pursue a story, some things will change while others won’t.This is a dramatic move with hopes of re-inventing the newspaper (and possibly being a model of change for others) because it’s the first time that change will be driven by a non-establishment outsider. Change doesn’t happen well from within, when the incumbents are still resisting it.But I hope they do the right experimentations that lead to innovation that enlighten us, unlike the NY Times who also has been “experimenting”, but with less dramatic results or real change.

    1. Aaron Klein

      The experiments are going to be radical and they’re going to make old guard journalists uncomfortable.But I think journalism had to look into the abyss before it would accept innovation at that level.

      1. William Mougayar

        It’s about time. If not now, when?

  9. falicon

    So how long before we see “People who read this news also read…” or “People who tweeted this story, also tweeted…”?

    1. ShanaC

      i’m curious about this as well. IS he going to do more journalism or more amazon. I’m not sure the amazonination (big data) approach to journalism will work if you want an informed society

      1. laurie kalmanson

        economics and history and newspapers: back in the day, nyc had 19 daily papers.http://ephemeralnewyork.wor…New York City’s long list of defunct newspapersIt’s hard to believe that in the 1890s, New York’s population of just a million and a half residents supported 19 daily English-language newspapers—along with scores of weeklies and foreign dailies.These papers were an illustrious bunch. There was the anti-immigrant New York Herald; publisher James Gordon Bennett Jr., reportedly said that a newspaper’s role is “not to instruct but to startle.”The New York World, published by Joseph Pulitzer, was hugely popular with working class residents. It was known for stunt journalism—as well as printing its Sunday supplement in color.The dead newspaper list also includes the New York Sun, the New York Journal American, the New York Mirror, and the often-lamented Brooklyn Eagle.Many were headquartered around City Hall, then nicknamed Newspaper Row. This thermometer/clock affixed to the old New York Sun building down on Chambers Street doesn’t work, but it’s a nice remnant of the neighborhood’s past.

        1. ShanaC

          really, there is a thermometer down there?

          1. laurie kalmanson

            yes, yes there is. hmmm, can’t post a photo from the disqus dashboard. here’s the link http://ephemeralnewyork.wor

      2. falicon

        Bezos is wicked smart, so I’m sure he’ll innovate in ways that the rest of us are currently blind to…That being said, I actually think there is a lot of overlap as at the core both e-commerce and professional journalism are really about trust.For news, it needs to be trust over revenue, quality over quantity, and insight over speed…historically the value from the company standpoint has been pulled out of volume.But I think the value from the reader’s point of view is all about trust and insight (are they telling me something truly insightful and interesting and do I really believe it?).If you really have your readers trust (built through consistent, quality, insight — that I think big data could really help you to pull off), then you’ve got a brand I think you could really pull a lot of value out of…

        1. ShanaC

          i’m not sold that the core of ecommerce is trust. It is getting what you want easily.

          1. falicon

            If that were true, people wouldn’t go to Best Buy and then buy the item on Amazon (because it would easier to get what you wanted right there at Best Buy when you identified and touched it)…but the reality is that they ‘wait’ because they trust Amazon to get them the same or better item, usually at a lower cost.The first question anyone has when they are buying something from the internet (that isn’t a household brand name company) is “do I trust that they are actually going to send me this item I’m buying? Do I also trust that they won’t F-up my credit card if I put it into their system”…it’s *all* about trust.

          2. ShanaC

            that’s true on a retail level as well. I still find it amazing in the US often you don’t see the credit swiped in front of you (aka, how do you know someone is also reading your information when you pay to steal). I also find it amazing I can go into bed bath and beyond and return things!convenience trumps all for ecommerce, which is why I can actually claim I am lazy enough to have my shaving cream delivered to me :)(though admittedly, I’m super biased. TBL startup and all)

      3. laurie kalmanson

        “The pattern of a newspaperman’s life is like the plot of ‘Black Beauty,’ ” A. J. Liebling wrote. “Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in the form of a Christmas bonus, sometimes he falls into the hands of a mean owner who drives him in spite of spavins and expects him to live on potato peelings.”

    2. Matt A. Myers

      The news people read is similarly as valuable as the books they read and comment on, and I am sure the same algorithms and insights can be gained with the same approach.

      1. falicon

        I agree.I think you could even argue that adding a ‘ratings’ system to journalism could be a really interesting experiment (especially if you can get journalists to compete for better quality ratings and reviews — because then you have them focusing on quality over everything else).

        1. Matt A. Myers

          This is a large problem to be solved. I’ve thought through it – even registered a domain related to it … so maybe some day … we’ll have to plan to hangout in NYC so we can get lots of talking done. 🙂

          1. falicon

            You are heading this way soon right? If yes, def. would enjoy chatting in person with you about a number of topics (so put me on your schedule/list!) 🙂

  10. pointsnfigures

    The quality of “journalism” is way down. I recall Fred highlighting that in a post a while ago. WAPO has become a reliable liberal rag. Television journalism may be worse.A free press that reports news and allows citizens to decide is essential to a free society. The bulk of the media today lacks critical thinking and objective skill.They have made technological missteps that have plummeted them to money losers. But in an age of content, most of their content is pablum, noise or hyper biased with an agenda.Lets hope Bezos changes that

    1. Jim Peterson

      We get the journalism we deserve? The three best publications I get I pay $150-360 per year for (each). Those that can’t, won’t, don’t pay won’t get much.

      1. pointsnfigures

        most aren’t worth paying for.

  11. ShanaC

    he’s a brave soul. He needs to figure out how to make journalism work. So far, the NYTImes is barely doing so (but only by theoretically keeping BG’s pension obligations and charging more for digital than for print)

    1. laurie kalmanson

      he has the technology

      1. ShanaC

        is that enough

        1. laurie kalmanson

          he is close to having all the content

  12. laurie kalmanson

    beautiful post.i was a news aide in the wapo chicago bureau and it was thrilling; i was visiting the mothership on the day the challenger space shuttle blew up, and though computers as word processors had been in the newsroom for a while, people still ripped and read the wirebezos offers the possibility of monetization and content delivery in ways beyond banner ads and page views: that is the value of the betnewspapers don’t need to be subsidized. for a period, mid-century, they were very profitable.the history of journalism in this country follows a rough arc from partisan journals in the founding years through the invention of mass media when the telegraph and railroads changed the laws of space and time and information distribution as radically as the internet has.objectivity arose with the new mass market possibilities; it started as a means of aggregating advertising dollars and then became a professional stanceurbanization and industrialization grew the market; cities had many dailies — morning and afternoon — and newspaper row, in lower manhattan (park row, today, near city hall) was the core of new york city, when i was growing up, my grandparents had a choice of afternoon or morning papers; when i was a child, reading the post or the daily news or the times was still as tribal a choice as rooting for the mets or the yankees.papers became chains and independents were bought up because there was money to be made; they were very profitable for a few decadeswhen that started changing with the rise of television and the growth of suburbanization, publishers had a choice: more quality and the hope of more readers, or cut costs and cut quality and maintain profits. the latter was the direction they chose, and kept choosing, as those trends acceleratedby the 80s, a decade before the internet, the afternoon papers were gone and the suriviving morning papers had started a slow bleed of declining circulation and costcutting that squeezed out a little more money in the present at the cost of gaining readers for the futurethen came the internetnewspapers invented classified advertising as a revenue model, but craigslist invented it for the web, and there went the cashat the same time, with one last chance to invest in quality or cut costs, publishers made the wrong choice, and offered readers less and lessthe question i see isn’t partisan or objective as much as it is informed and true. having an agenda is fine, as long as it is clearly stated. the problem with fox news isn’t that it is partisan, it is that it pretends not to be (also, the lies).the definition of journalism is publishing things that someone else doesn’t want published; everything else is public that, do it well, make money at it — if bezos can remake the machinery and the business model, others can follow.

    1. falicon

      Great comment – worthy of it’s own full post.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        networks, then and now…

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Thanks for above reminder regarding the afternoon daily. I have to wonder if the move to all morning editions didn’t have unintended consequences? In so many ways, the newspapers are behind, except those that are the source for national and get linked in Drudge and so on.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            all good points. the people who read news online read it all the time; the afternoon daily went away in suburbanization; it was largely a newsstand item that people grabbed to read on the subway or the trolleythe early 90s change to all content all the time could have been a paradigm shift (using the jargon of the era) but they kept doing the same thing, just in pixelsamazon could do all content all the time plus commerce; the ultimate content marketing machinemeanwhile, the curiosity rover is celebrating 1 year on mars.

          2. Dave W Baldwin

            Bless his soul… and now we get to see the talkative Japanese robot heading for the station….

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Search Disqus for variations of this comment reply, and compile a whole list of good / valuable content …

        1. laurie kalmanson

          crowd sourcing content, love itthis is a great history of the rise of the mass media of the mid 20th century from the partisan journals of earlier centuries…if we were the BezosPost we’d be writing, commenting and selling

      3. laurie kalmanson

        gathered up the pieces here: thnx for the push…

    2. Richard

      The truth is that while journalism exists, it just is not found in the WAPO. Bezos should use Kickstarter fund investigative journalism to usher in credibility and objectivity.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        the more the betteri think he doesn’t need kickstarter

        1. Richard

          WAPO is bleeding $50-$75 million. What investigative journalism is missing a means to gauge what readers want. Note: Super wealthy don’t like loosing this type of $.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            but it wasn’t so long ago that newspapers were hugely profitable

      2. ShanaC

        you mean the way npr and pro publica have?

      3. mcbeese

        No. ‘WAPO’ is a much more solid launch point than a Kickstarter campaign.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      I wonder though if to some degree, if someone is an expert enough on a topic, expert enough that you’d want them writing articles, that instead now they write books?

      1. laurie kalmanson

        aaah you’re making me think about the thought crime of reading book reviews instead of reading the actual books.there are many lengths and many forms; investigative books often start as articlesin theory bezos could fund and promote and sell all of the above with the right toolskickstart powered by amazon for the initial funding; sell the book

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Well, essentially an author, of say newspaper articles, is sharing their writing in a crowdsourced model – whereby you can gain the synergies of economies of scale, etc.. With physical print media, before the internet, the synergies and value as huge. Nowadays though with anyone being able to create and post it, not so much – you can over time gain a following of people – though discovery for people who are newly interested in a topic and looking for a source that writes the style and length that they most like to consume is practically non-existent.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            discovery is still an issue and the google algorithm is everchanging. crowds beget crowds; creating a crowd is still the hard part. radiohead sold $$$$ of their name your own price download, but they were already radiohead; becoming radiohead is still the trick. the best way is still the old fashioned way; one follower, lead, contact, fan, friend at a time

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Long-tail, relationship building

          3. laurie kalmanson

            exactly. you bring your list to kickstarter to make things happen; don’t try to kickstart without a list

          4. Matt A. Myers

            Oh, and will you be in NYC for and around September 23rd? 🙂

          5. laurie kalmanson

            working on it

          6. Matt A. Myers

            Cool. We’ll have to get together for lunch or dinner or tea or something! 🙂

          7. laurie kalmanson


        2. Matt A. Myers

          Also to note, I think what you stated is a very viable way of going about it. In part though I think many of these experts go the academia route to receive a piece of paper, and do actual practical work for the implications they hope to discover and prove. Unfortunately and understandably, Phd students don’t broadly share the depths of their research, or the full insight, until it’s ready to publish in a paper in its entirety to avoid ‘thought plagiarism’ and have a headsup on ‘competitors,’ etc..

          1. laurie kalmanson


          2. Matt A. Myers

            Opensourced crowdsourcing do you mean ?

          3. laurie kalmanson

            opensource development, yes; crowdsourcing for making things and this thread.

  13. Ana Milicevic

    I wonder if this is a viable transition for reputable newspapers (and houses of good journalism) until they can find a more sustainable business model in digital land: find a benevolent billionaire to acquire you.

    1. William Mougayar

      Progressive outsider is the keyword. Big change comes from the outside.

  14. Dave W Baldwin

    Interesting development. Though it is his baby (not Amazon’s), we could see ad rev supporting the papers coming from Kindle and so on. He is taking a big responsibility on, having to clarify the story being written via confirmed fact and not written to please him.

  15. brianwats

    I blogged this same quote today. (I’ve committed to write five sentences per day.)……but you beat me to it!#MustWakeUpEarlier

  16. Tracey Jackson

    I’m just happy Dan Loeb didn’t buy it.I agree with Arnold. – ” There’s a plan”He’s too smart not to have one. And a day after he said it would not change, he says there will be change. But how can there not be change? For newspapers as we know them to survive something has to be done.The fact the Boston Globe sold for the price of a beach house in the Hamptons is pathetic. If someone can turn it around maybe it’s Bezos.

    1. LE

      “Boston Globe sold for the price of a beach house in the Hamptons”A beach house is an asset that can be resold and has a generally fixed yearly cost. A newspaper is something that can lose money and requires investment of an unknown amount. (Won’t get into whether the purchase price included assumed debts or other obligations either I don’t know that but could make the true “purchase price” higher.)

      1. Tracey Jackson

        Good point. But they can also get hit by hurricanes or end up in the hands of your ex-wife. Though so can newspapers!

  17. MC

    Last month, Pew Research released a survey showing that only 28% of respondents believe that journalists “contribute a lot to society’s well being.” Journalists finished far below military, teachers, doctors, scientists, and engineers, and behind clergy and artists (but above business execs and lawyers). It is surprising that such few people realize how critical the free press is to a free society. Perhaps it is just taken for granted. Kudos to the Grahams for realizing that what they were doing is not working, and good luck to Bezos Hopefully, he will foster reliable investigative journalism.

    1. kidmercury

      people don’t realize we don’t have a free society, so naturally they don’t realize the importance of a free press

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      really – 28% – now that is disturbing !I would have never guessed that #I’ve got to get out more.

    3. Dave W Baldwin

      The problem today is what do the up and comers have to take inspiration from? In addition to WaPo and Watergate, think about something like “This Week” when it was under Brinkley featuring multi intellect like Will and Roberts with the off the wall “I’ll ask any question of anyone” like Donaldson. Newspapers would run OpEds from multiple sides and you had people from the different sides who could actually write!I would say Bezos has a ‘kinda’ plan and remember, he can afford to go after it. If its a good plan, I hope he succeeds!

  18. laurie kalmanson

    speaking of journalism: great timeline of the wapo in the nyt…

  19. LE

    “The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost.”I don’t think that refers to monetary cost I think it refers to other cost as in who or what the story hurts (as in the Watergate scandal and the Presidency).

  20. Kirsten Lambertsen

    God, we live in interesting times.Let’s hope he doesn’t go Citizen Kane on us ;-)I have to say, I’ve gone beyond fully trusting any of the big news instruments. I basically rely on Democracy Now.

  21. laurie kalmanson

    Newspaper Row…Newspaper Row, or Park Row as it’s now known, was the home of most of New York City’s newspapers during the 19th century. The buildings in this image housed the New York World newspaper, the New York Tribune, and The New York Times — which was the first paper in the city to move into a building built specifically for its own use when it moved to 41 Park Row in 1958.

  22. Elia Freedman

    Good for Bezos but I don’t think this was a very hard decision. Investigative journalism will not go away and the Internet hasn’t proven to create this kind of journalism yet. Most “papers” (physical or Internet) will go away for national news as we only need so many of these. Who will be left? My bet is on Washington Post, NYT and WSJ, maybe one or two others. The rest will be local. When this happens the value of owning the Washington Post will go through the roof.

  23. takingpitches

    Recognizing that it is his and not Amazon, I hope he finds a way to include WaPo in my Prime subscription!

  24. Kirsten Lambertsen


  25. Donna Brewington White

    I have a soft spot for journalism and believe that it can be a noble endeavor. Was thrilled to see this move by Bezos. Instinct (and common sense) tells me that this is much more than a benevolent move but a brilliant one as well…and that Bezos has a plan. Someday we’ll read the full story. I think I know where.

  26. gregory

    Love the consistency between what Bezos said in his letter about buying WaPo “The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.” and what he said in his letter to 1997 Amazon shareholders “We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers; We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions.”… if you swap readers for customers.

  27. LE

    As I stated previously elsewhere, this statement by Bezos:Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention…remind me of the Bud Fox scene (Charlie Sheen character) in the first “Wall Street” movie where he was going to turn around Bluestar with “marketing”. And his father laughed at him as if he was naive. (I think the union guys thought it was a good idea but I may be mixing up the scenes a bit.)Does anyone really believe that Bezos bought this paper because he thinks that by talking about restaurant openings and scout troops he will be able to connect and increase circulation so the furniture stores return to run full page advertisements? That this is some local play? That this has not been tried all over the place and wow that’s why the paper is losing money!!!Bezos didn’t buy the paper because he’s interest in connecting with soccer moms and high school football teams. And he doesn’t think that. It’s actually pretty amazing that he even said that.He bought the paper to have influence and make connections whereby he can change public policy.He can do this in many ways.By influencing who is hired at the paper (even if he isn’t the defacto decision maker) or by what stories are run. He isn’t hiring but he can get people in the door and single them out if he wants. (Can you? I can’t).Even if he doesn’t assign reporters to stories it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an ear to make a suggestion about something he wants written about. Guess what? If there is something that I think is an important story I can’t get the ear of a newspaper editor. Jeff can. If there is someone that I think would be a great writer at the paper I can’t get them an interview. Jeff can. Jeff is now “daddy” at that institution.And just like a President can influence the Supreme court with who he picks to be on the court Bezos can shape coverage at the Post quite easily without being involved in the day to day decision making and running of that paper. He maintains a distance but is behind the scenes making helpful suggestions.And he now has a way to yield a stick (whether real or perceived) when attending Washington parties or connecting with legislators. You don’t think that’s he’s going to be able to push agendas that are important to him? He will. Doesn’t even matter if he has real dejure control over the paper. He will be perceived as having control over the paper. And people will listen to him. Doesn’t mean they will agree and doesn’t mean they will do what he wants when he asks but he has an audience that the rest of us don’t have. That’s why he bought the paper. And if he can turn it around and make money that’s icing on the cake.As far as making money he’s already set this up so nobody expects it will make money for any amount of time and because it’s private nobody will know until he’s ready to tell them.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      You seem to be correct: The idea thatBezos bought the Wapo hoping to “turn itaround” with high school sport scores, newrestaurant openings, etc. is nonsense.More generally, I have two earlier postson this thread that say mostly mean thingsabout ‘journalism’, but your point iscorrect: For what journalism, and theWapo, NYT, etc., have tried to do in thecontext, business model, market, McLuhan’s”medium”, they have worked very hard coastto coast for decades without finding anyways to pull out of their dive to thefinancial bottom.I gave some suggestions based heavily onusing the Internet to exploit manyaudiences, each geographically dispersebut with relatively narrow interests.Some of the narrow interests can includeserious information for people who reallywant serious information, and thatinformation for those people can,hopefully, be the way a “free society”gets the “crucial” information it needs.Yes, I know: Ars Technica, Wired, andmore try to do well with narrow audiences.However I would note that thesepublications retain too many of the old’journalistic’ techniques that have hadpeople laughing at journalism for at least100 years.You make it sound like Bezos bought theWapo much like he could have bought aseason ticket in one of the first few rowsof the NY Metropolitan Opera so thatbefore, during intermission, and afterwardhe could have an “audience” with the otherpeople in the first few rows!If Bezos wanted to go on the DC cocktailcircuit, no doubt people would like tohave him even without his owning the Wapo.You gave a list of reason he bought; maybethe one word reason is ‘ego’?

      1. LE

        Agree with the ego but for this:You make it sound like Bezos bought the Wapo much like he could have bought a season ticket in one of the first few rows of the NY Metropolitan Opera so that before, during intermission, and afterward he could have an “audience” with the other people in the first few rows!If Bezos wanted to go on the DC cocktail circuit, no doubt people would like to have him even without his owning the Wapo.Reminded of the saying attributed to Capone “you get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word”.The bartender is at the party as well, right? But he’s down on the pecking order. And has no gun.Bezos can get more from the party owning the paper (gun) than any ordinary billionaire that doesn’t own a paper (and has no other obvious advantage). He’s a billionaire plus benefits. Or you can look at it as a billionaire that can give or withhold.Good point of course about why people attend the opera. But keep in mind that all the people you meet in those circles also cost you money because you get invited to parties or other charity events which if you attend you have to buy a table or make a big donation.Side note my brother in law (and sister in law as well) is an opera singer and wherever he goes he is always put up in “some rich person’s house” who supports the opera for the length of the performance.By the way if you get a chance watch the excellent “A table in Heaven” about Le Cirque and see how Sulzberger is treated like a head of state by the restaurant’s owner. Definitely worth a watch. It’s on netflix.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Yes, with Wapo, Bezos can have a bigger’gun’ than most billionaires.Ah, when my wife was alive, we learned howto get good treatment at fancyrestaurants. The main thing is to gooften enough to be recognized.So, at one nice place in DC, we got anice, big, corner table, for just the twoof us, while a well known Senator got atiny table next to the high traffic, mainisle!There was a French restaurant on the southwest corner of Wisconsin and M streetsthat Jack and Jackie Kennedy helped makefamous, and we got good treatment just bygoing often enough to he remembered.Since my wife also had a Ph.D., when wedecided to go to Lutèce, she made thephone reservation for “The Drs. …”pretending to be a secretary. Workedgreat! Soltner came by, etc. We had somechicken with a good Corton, which wasbetter than the chicken.To heck with NYC restaurants: Accordingto the ‘Mobile Travel Guide’, the two bestrestaurants in the US were one inCincinnati and Harrald’s in run downStormville, NY! Harrald’s got five starsfrom Mobile for at least 14 years in arow, and that record blew away anything inManhattan. I ended up drinking him out ofhis half bottles of Morey St. Denis!Nice wine!Don’t have to be a billionaire or own anewspaper to get good tables at the bestrestaurants!

  28. Adrian Sanders

    It’s for the printers, the brand, and the ability to get real insight into different product iterations from a reliable local and national readership.

  29. laurie kalmanson

    the ultimate content marketing machinemovie review– back catalog> videos: director> videos: actors> book the movie was based onmusic review– band’s catalog

  30. ErikSchwartz

    “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper”-Charles Foster KaneBezos didn’t buy a newspaper for the dead tree edition. He bought a quality team of content creators. Bezos already knows how to make money from content. I would keep an eye on Lab126 and see if they start playing in this space.

    1. kidmercury

      the bull market in content is gearing up!

    2. mcbeese

      I think he purchased a subscriber base to experiment with for a good price.The migration of content from print to digital is easy and has already happened.The migration of advertising revenue from print to digital has NOT happened because a website or one app of dozens or hundreds on your general purpose tablet is not the same from an attention-getting perspective as a dedicated newsprint-based media publication.Bezos is going after the billions in advertising revenue that is being left on the table. He’ll figure it out with WAPO and then roll it out to all of the newspapers that are looking to stay relevant.

  31. laurie kalmanson

    if i had the time today i would make the gif of “washington post” “add to cart”

    1. William Mougayar

      With 1-click purchase and priority shipping charges waived?

      1. laurie kalmanson

        looks like the new yorker got it…SEATTLE (The Borowitz Report)—Jeff Bezos, the founder of, told reporters today that his reported purchase of the Washington Post was a “gigantic mix-up,” explaining that he had clicked on the newspaper by mistake.“I guess I was just kind of browsing through their website and not paying close attention to what I was doing,” he said. “No way did I intend to buy anything.”Mr. Bezos said he had been oblivious to his online shopping error until earlier today, when he saw an unusual charge for two hundred and fifty million dollars on his American Express statement.After investigating with the credit-card company, he was informed that he had been charged for the purchase price of the entire Washington Post, which, he said, was “pure craziness.”“No way in hell would I buy the Washington Post,” he said. “I don’t even read the Washington Post.”Mr. Bezos said he had been on the phone with the Post’s customer service for the better part of the day trying to unwind his mistaken purchase, but so far “they’ve really been giving me the runaround.”According to Mr. Bezos, “I keep telling them, I don’t know how it got in my cart. I don’t want it. It’s like they’re making it impossible to return it.”

        1. William Mougayar

          Funny. I hadn’t seen it. Do they have a return policy? Or maybe they’ll give him an exchange credit only, valid for 180 days.He can exchange it for something else that doesn’t have paper in it 🙂

          1. laurie kalmanson

            store credit, nice

  32. LE

    “Does Washington Post Purchase Mean Amazon Has Topped?”…Agree with this at least in the context of a distraction to Bezos. He has unlimited money but he doesn’t have unlimited time.Amazon is by no means a cash cow running on auto pilot (very few businesses are). No question this will have an impact on what he can do to drive amazon even if he isn’t involved day to day. Even if you buy into my theory on why he bought the paper which is not to benefit Amazon so much as to be able to change public policy and laws for things he cares about. That billionaire legacy thing. (Even if you factor in losses much cheaper than endowing a medical school although that doesn’t come with ongoing losses and a time commitment or as much of a distraction factor..)

    1. kidmercury

      amazon has topped, lol…..i didn’t know it was comedy hour here in fredland today……..thanks for the chuckles!

      1. LE

        “.i didn’t know it was comedy hour here”Then I would expect that you will be buying the stock, yes?”thanks for the chuckles!”(I thought that what Liad said was funnier, no?)

        1. kidmercury

          a company’s stock price is not necessarily correlated to anything in observable reality. you might as well be asking me if i’ll be wearing the color purple tomorrow.i do own amzn shares, and i’d love to buy more, but not until there is a significant sell-off of some kind, preferably a decline of at least 20%. this may not happen in which case i won’t buy unless some extraordinary events i currently cannot forsee occur.

  33. Salt Shaker

    When I was in 6th Grade it was mandatory to read our town’s daily newspaper, the contents of which were discussed in class the next day. I’ve read a newspaper every day since, including The Washington Post where as a college freshman I had the privilege of reading daily Woodward/Bernstein’s unfolding coverage of Watergate. It was the first time I fully grasped the power of investigative journalism, an art form now in serious decline as the manpower expense for developing these types of stories has escalated. Many years later I worked in publishing for a leading sports magazine that has since pivoted exclusively to a digital format. Yes, the traditional publishing biz model is broken as circulation and ad rev declined, while printing, paper and distribution expenses escalated. However, a savvy digital pioneer like Bezos has the ability to resurrect a company with brand equity well beyond its parochial base. At the very least, he won’t be beholden to shareholder pressure. If I’m Mr. Bezos, I’d begin by taking a page out of my 6th grade teacher’s playbook and develop a strong educational outreach program where Washington Post content–in an abridged print and/or digital format–can be pushed, shared and discussed in class w/ students still in their formative years. This outreach program could have many tentacles, including scholarship programs, trivia challenges, etc. The success/failure of the TWP moving forward isn’t just about developing good content, it’s also recognizing the need for behavior modification among future readers/subscribers.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      same: cut out a newspaper story and discuss, for “current events”

  34. LE

    Note in the attached screen grab from yesterday the picture that was run (showing an unhappy Katherine Weymouth) vs. today showing the “legends”. Tugs at your heart strings.Note also “Post sale hailed as smart move by both parties” story line (only surprising thing is that someone thought to mention that two parties to a transaction wouldn’t think it was a smart move.)Click on picture to enlarge.

  35. sigmaalgebra

    For Fred’s title> Journalism plays a critical role in afree societyYes, Wapo has done some good things, e.g.,the Watergate investigations.I’d say, yes, from the many problems inour society we need journalism, or somereplacement, to do much better. That is,compared with the needs of our society,’journalism’ just sucks; the citizens arenot getting the information they need; ourdemocracy is largely flying blind throughstormy weather.Why: All across our society whereimportant work is being done, physicalscience, engineering, finance, medicine,medical research, the level of quality ofthe information is usually so high that incomparison journalism looks like a reallybad joke.People have been laughing at journalismfor decades: Can get, say, an Andy Hardymovie from the 1930s with Andy dismissingsome claim by asking if it was from somenewspaper; people were laughing at the lowquality of content of journalism in the1930s, and the main techniques ofjournalism and the quality of the contentseem not to have changed much since then.Net I blame a major fraction of oursociety’s problems and missedopportunities on low quality informationfrom journalism.But is it possible to make money sellinginformation as words? Let’s see: Bezosmade a lot of money selling words as’books’, on paper for a Kindle, etc.; solikely can’t tell him that can’t makemoney selling words.E.g,, as at…Amazon is sellingWalter Rudin, Real and Complex Analysis(International Series in Pure and AppliedMathematics) [Hardcover],for $81.09. As I recall I got my copy,new, from a bookstore, for $16.95. That’ssome markup! That book has von Neumann’sproof of the Radon-Nikodym theorem, and,believe me, that proof has not changedsince I paid my $16.95.Net, there’s still some money in sellingwords. Pictures? Although the content ofRudin’s book is heavily ‘geometrical’, Idon’t believe there is a single picture inthe book.My view is that ‘journalism’ has someserious problems, of its own making, fromthe past: Basically it wanted to makemoney by grabbing readers by the heart,the gut, and below the belt, always belowthe shoulders, never between the ears,knew that the eyeballs would then follow,and run ads for the eyeballs.To so grab the readers, they borrowedheavily from light entertainment and thetechniques from the ancient Greeks we nowcall ‘formula fiction’ with a protagonist,some adversaries, etc. For more,techniques were to get readers to identifywith the protagonists, ‘buy in’ to some ofthe opinions and lifestyle. For more,play on fears, stimulate anxieties as in”if it bleeds, it leads”. Scandal!For more, journalism as standard practicemassively violated even standard highschool term paper writing standards.E.g., primary sources were neglected;references were not given; graphs wereused mostly just as graphical artsdecorations and as graphs of data werenearly useless and incompetently done;nearly always numerical data was handledpoorly down to not at all (a little betterfor sports scores and statistics and stockquotes). Net, the content just was nothigh quality information. E.g., it isessentially impossible to find viajournalism a clear statement and breakdownof Federal Government spending. E.g., weblew the housing bubble, a highlyleveraged financial asset bubble as bad asthe stock market in 1929, but as thebubble expanded journalism never providedclear data on the situation. Plenty ofresponsible people, e.g., the COB of WellsFargo, knew well of the bad stuff that washappening and said that we would not likethe results, but journalism never put outthe information needed by informedcitizens. Here the US totally shot itselfin the gut; many lives were seriously hurtor ruined; some people were pushed overthe edge and died; many children will beshort on ’emotional, psychological, andsocial capital’; we blew it; we reallyblew it.Bill Clinton and W both knew that thebubble was dangerous but believed thatpolitically there was nothing they coulddo. Why? Because journalism failed toinform the citizens.Now we are on the way to taking one of thelargest and most important parts of oureconomy and society, our health caresystem, and turning it over to ‘ObamaCare’for which we really don’t know “what’s init”. We’re flying blind; I predictObamaCare will kill a lot of people andwaste a lot of money; tough to be dumber,and journalism is not providing theinformation citizens need.So, journalism was about manipulatingreaders, not informing them.Early in my career, I expected to be awell informed citizen. I spent one summerin DC and each day read everything in theWapo that looked relevant. At the end ofthe summer I concluded that I’d receivednext to nothing in useful information.Wapo had been nearly a total waste.One day I counted and saw that I hadsubscribed to 22 printed periodicals. Iconcluded, again, I just was not gettinguseful information and cut thesubscriptions way back.Since I’ve been in NY for some years now,the NYT used to call me asking me tosubscribe, and I kept telling them that Ihad no dead fish trimmings to wrap anddiscard; shredding their paper for kittylitter would get their ink on the back endof my kitty cat; and he and I wouldn’tlike that.From absurd foreign adventures,incompetent, disastrous Federal Governmentmeddling in the economy, the totally wackotax code, wasteful Federal spending,sleazy backroom deals in DC, overreach byparts of the Federal Government thatsometimes track mud over our Constitution,and much more, journalism and its ‘formulafiction’ entertainment is just notproviding our society with the informationit needs.Maybe Bezos can get Wapo to put out solidcontent. Then, sure, I’d pay, read,applaud, and pay.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      YES – I can relate to all those frustrations !Merging SUMMARY with FIDELITYaround often secretively complex multi-stakeholder issuesand delivering it all with appropriately simple mass-media accessibilityall against the gale force winds of self-serving misinformationto a distracted audience up to it ass daily in personal alligatorsis our collective fools-errandbut what else can we do but keep slugging for JesusSurely with this new internet-thingy in our back pocket hope springs eternal that we can conjure-up some new, seriously effective, collaborative visualization tools.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        I omitted a relevant description of’journalism’ current and past via thefamous Marshall McLuhan remark “The mediumis the message.”.So, apparently what he meant by thisremark, applied to journalism, is that the’basics’ of the ‘news gathering’ were justa few organizations, e.g., AP, UPI, NYT,and in each ‘market’ there were only a few’outlets’, i.e., only a few of each ofnewspapers, magazines, TV channels, etc.,to the end point readers.So, the ‘message’ had to use essentiallythe same standard techniques to reach amajor fraction of the audience. So, thecontent, techniques, and ‘journalism’itself became one size fits all, leastcommon denominator. Or pick the morningnewspaper from 10 medium sized US cities,remove the local news and the name of thepaper, and what was left fell into maybejust two categories, Republican andDemocrat. TV news? It was just a fewmajor networks, and they differed mostlyjust on ‘anchor personalities’ andhairdos. Why? Again, due to the’medium’, all the ‘outlets’ were going foras much as they could take from the middleof the road.It’s a standard situation: Here’s MainStreet in a town. Now where to put theMcDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King?Sure: There’s essentially a ‘saddlepoint’ strategy: Put all three near thecenter of town. Okay, suppose the Wendy’sowner decides to move two miles down MainStreet. Then he competes for only maybe20% of the business, and the middle oftown gets the other 80%. In the middle oftown, the Wendy’s guy has a shot at 33%.So, go for the center of town, the middleof the road, etc.But what about a high end, whitetablecloth, Piedmont Italian place with 24different Barolos on the wine list, saladdressing with artesian oil and vinegarthat cost per ounce more than most wines,etc.? He can he anywhere within 40 milesor so of the center of town.All this applies to journalism.So, McLuan’s ‘medium’ is now the Internet,and there we have many ‘outlets’. So,it’s not necessary and likely notdesirable to go for the middle of theroad. Instead every ‘outlet’ can be likethat Piedmont Italian restaurant, reachinga narrow audience.And, unlike that high end Italianrestaurant in a town, now an ‘outlet’ witha narrow audience can reach that audiencearound the world and, maybe, net, bebigger than, say, some major US morningnewspaper in Boston, LA, Atlanta,Cleveland, etc.For how to serve Fred’s “free society”,one of the obvious narrow audiences is thecollection of readers who take seriousinformation about society especiallyseriously. Then that audience can leadthe debate, and the middle of the roadaudience can give up competing and justfollow along. So, no longer need our freesociety make, say, 60% of the citizenswell informed on Bernanke’s ‘quantitativeeasing’, just where the money went forTARP I or TARP II, the challenges ofSunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in Iraq, an upto date Leontief model of the US economy,the tricky issues in the US health caresystem, etc.But there stand to be many narrowaudiences and, thus, a massive’fragmentation’, with the Internetshrinking ‘time and space’, of audiences.Then, Wapo could become, say, the leadingoutlet in the world for people who wantserious information about governments,international trade, internationalrelations, epidemics, military technologyand conflicts, the world economy, etc.So for your> delivering it all with appropriatelysimple mass-media accessibility allagainst the gale force winds ofself-serving misinformation to adistracted audience up to it ass daily inpersonal alligatorsgive that audience some version of McPaperheavily on, say, NASCAR race results; thataudience is not the one for the new Wapo Ioutlined. And, terrific, if there is abig crash, hope, hope, hope, run a hugepicture of that before everything else.”It it bleeds, it leads!”And for the drivers, make themprotagonists in a drama, heroes, “He’s themost determined driver with a heavy rightfoot who ever clicked a safety harness.He came with his game face on and will winthis if he possibly can.”. And somepeople think that NASCAR is about race carmechanical engineering? Not really.Instead it’s all basically drama back tothe ancient Greeks. The cars are juststage props in the drama.Yes, what a driver should do going aroundthe track is first cut and likelyotherwise for a useful approximation aproblem in deterministic optimal controlas inMichael Athans and Peter L. Falb, ‘OptimalControl: An Introduction to the Theoryand Its Applications’, McGraw-Hill BookCompany, New York.Think NASCAR would be interested? F’getabout it!For your> is our collective fools-errandsecretively complex multi-stakeholderissuesBezos just took a little of his pocketchange and simplified most of that!For old ‘journalism’, Hollywood often’gets it’. I already mentioned a remarkin a 1930s Andy Hardy movie. But themovie ‘Godzilla’ has a devastatingportrayal of the pap and incompetence of alocal TV news department. The movie’Seabiscuit’ shows ‘journalists’ puttingall ‘news’ on their Procrustean bed of thesimplest old cliches.McLuhan’s “medium” of old journalism isgoing away — good riddance. Now with theInternet, there is a new McLuhan “medium”and, thus, no doubt a new McLuhan”message”. Just in time.

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          Agreed !”The medium is the message”because its defines the scope, the range, the bandwidth, the outer envelope of possible exchange/synchronizationi.e. smoke signals support a far lower bandwidth of possible exchange/synchronization than does the internet

    2. ShanaC

      ( just so you know, this post is now approved and is no longer waiting in moderation)ok so where do you get your news from

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Shana, hopefully clear enough in what Iwrote is that, really, there isn’t muchnews worth reading. And, of course,that’s one of the biggest problems ofcurrent life on earth. But I did explainmore in terms of McLuhan below in…So, for the little meaningful news thereis from McLuhan’s “the medium is themessage”, it’s easy enough to find it.So, it’s sufficient to take a quick passby Hacker News, SAI BI (where I will onlyread guest authors or articles reprintedfrom elsewhere), Drudge Report, JamesSimons’s science magazine, andoccasionally a few more. From these’curation’ sources, except for the hugefraction of what is obviously just totaljunk, mostly see the same dozen or so’stories’ over and over, which, by a cutetrick in statistics, suggests that thedozen or so are about all there are from’journalism’. Of course the cute trickis, to estimate the number of fish in apond, catch some fish, tag them, releasethem, wait a while, catch some more fish,and observe the fraction that are tagged.I’ll let you write out the little appliedprobability math for the estimate!So, right, recently there have beenarticles about economics and Prof. Rogoff.So, right away I remember that he — getthe Pepto-Bismol and at least one airlinebag and move to a floor easy to wash — aspreadsheet! Gads. Then, much worse, wenow know that he can’t get the bugs out ofhis spreadsheet software. Of course, hewas claiming to address just the whole USeconomy, so why be too careful about bugsin a spreadsheet? Lotta junk out there.But as you know, I do get some informationfrom See how Fred can toss outan issue or a question at about 5:30 AMand have the AVC community respond; oncare and information, ‘journalism’ can’thope to compete.Then, sure, a theme for the future is’news’ from people who are real expertsinstead of generalist journalism’reporters’.Old journalism is going away. I’ve triedto argue in other posts on this threadthat a likely replacement will beinformation sources with narrow audiencesaccessed via the Internet, and it willstill be McLuhan’s “The medium is themessage.”.

  36. hypermark

    A seminal question is what is journalism at this point? I ask this as someone who loves the written form, and deeply respects great reporting.That caveat aside, you’ve got blogs on one side giving away what journalists once sold. You’ve got the blogosphere offering the full smorgasbord of opinions and detailed analyses, ranging from horrific to terrific, but generally more than good enough for most stories.You’ve got the hollowing out of the “newsroom,” the thinning out of the printed paper/magazine. And you’ve got the media operator, who has become increasingly compromised by the conflicting whims of short attention spans, the need to curry favor with advertisers, and the need to maintain favorable treatment by government (esp., the conglomerate Media Cos).I mean, I think that we know good journalism when we see it, but separating a great article from the product of journalism is less obvious today, esp. once you get beyond the few stories that require far-reaching correspondents or deep resources to research and channel “truth.”What is journalism at this point?

    1. Tom Labus

      Maybe creates an “AWS” for newspapers and lets them get back to journalism.

      1. hypermark

        Maybe, but I’d note that this is a Jeff Bezos acquisition, not an Amazon one. The question there is whether he’ll run it more as a patron and protector, or more as a business that succeeds (or not) based upon Amazonian principles. My guess is more of the former than the latter.Reminds of this funny tweet that Om Malik RT’d yesterday: Two happiest days in a rich guy’s life: The day he buys a newspaper, and the day he sells it.





      1. hypermark

        BANG! Agreed. 🙂

      2. laurie kalmanson

        freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one, which now can be anyone: internetinvestigative reporting is guaranteed only to those who can fund it; that’s still the magic trick

  37. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    what i liked most about this ‘ism’ is … the ads on the right….

    1. laurie kalmanson

      based on your browsing history

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        really? Then that is even more stupid.I don’t browse much on the web except for directly visiting AVC, my yahoo account and hotmail account and stuffs related to x-ray.

  38. $28312048

    If Bezo’s is hands off I don’t really care. His ideology and treatment of his employees is a bit repulsive, so hopefully it doesn’t just become his mouthpiece. A man who truly cares only about himself at the expense of everyone else He basically brought Walmart to the internet, hardly the stuff of visionaries.

  39. Jacob

    This shouldn’t come as a surprise., which Bezos is also an investor, earlier this month purchase a print newspaper as well.

  40. Sean Hull

    Super impressive, but I wonder what the folks at antitrust division think of all this.Is that why he bought it as Jeff and not as Amazon Inc?

  41. JLM

    .Bezos is not doing this for style points nor is it a head fake. He’s way too smart for that.Amazon is all about content and a platform upon which to sell that content.The NYT deal is all about content. Like or hate the NYT but it produces a ton of content on a daily basis.Bezos is going to change the way that that content gets to the consumers.Critics and lovers of the NYT either decry or embrace the focus of the content. No smart consumer ignores it if for no other reason than to know what the other side is thinking.I’m betting that Bezos will democratize the content. Broaden the focus and content. Exactly what he has done with Amazon.The NYT will become so broad as to almost be “fair and balanced” maybe even agnostic.Paper is contracting but it is not dead. Digital is exploding but it is having a hard time monetizing the content but it clearly learning. This is the classic locus of change in real time.Bezos worked the Amazon deal for a long time before he became an overnight genius.Stay tuned, this will be very interesting.Journalism as we have known it has already changed forever. What is also changing is the editorial thrust of papers, the very nature of information (not everything is going to be multi-sourced for accuracy and will be delivered with that limitation). The ability to correct information on the fly is going to continue.JLM.



  43. laurie kalmanson

    amazing image…

  44. Joseph Valente

    Fred, you’re definitely right about the importance of good journalism and I think that in order for journalism to work in the long term, we definitely need people with great business acumen running newspapers. However, I feel like a lot of the commentary around this has focussed around what Bezos will do with WaPo from a business standpoint without engaging in any criticism around the issues associated with someone as powerful as Bezos acquiring more power through owning a media outlet as well.I remember in your PandoDaily interview that you made a point of telling Sarah Lacy that the reason you didn’t invest in her business was because you never wanted anyone to think that the reason she was reporting on you or your investments was solely because you had paid her to do so. I thought this was a very courageous thing to say, especially given the silence that surrounds a lot of these insidious relationships between companies, capital and media in the technology space. You’re perhaps in a unique position to do this because you have enough results behind you to not require sucking up to the media, but I still took it as evidence of good character because it’s something that a lot of other successful investors didn’t think twice about when they could easily have said no.I think a similar principle applies in this case too. We’ve seen a few wealthy techies acquire old media mastheads (most notably Chris Hughes acquiring TNR), and I’m starting to wonder if this is a new normal. I know that most are doing so under the guise of bringing media into the 21st Century but I feel like they do more bad than good for these established media brands. As in the case of PandoDaily, how will we know now that what’s written in WaPo is best for the people and not best for Bezos?Don’t mean to be such a contrarian about it but it’s something I’ve been very puzzled by. At the end of the day I don’t know Jeff Bezos so if Don Graham says he trusts the guy then who am I to second guess that. But as a lawyer I’ve been taught never to trust power. And as an Italian citizen I’ve watched Silvio Berlusconi use media control to further huge conflicts of interest that have brought a country to its knees. Not saying that will happen here but I just think we need to be vigilant, the United States was not founded by trust of the powerful.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for the link steve. i will read it.

  45. jason wright

    a power play to serve Amazon’s vested interests in the city of power

  46. Dave W Baldwin

    Day late, but good read from TechCrunch:…Bezos playing chess. They even point out what I referred to in the context of Walton this week regarding get paid, but not owe your people for whichever length of time. In this case they’re talking about royalties. Wanted to put it here for @kidmercury:disqus

  47. marketing Rochester NY

    yes it does sometime