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Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos (washingtonpost.com)
606 points by Volscio on Aug 5, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments



I think this is a bold move by Bezos. One of the interesting data points in the world of Journalism has been the transition of the New York Time from mostly paper to being mostly digital. Something Jeff is profoundly aware of.

Every morning while I eat my breakfast I download the Wall Street Journal and times to my iPad, and on the train to work scan them and this weeks Economist for interesting stories of the day, combined with this month's Scientific American, Smithsonian, and Science News.

If I could use Evernote with those "publications" on the iPad I could be very efficient in my collection of various inputs on news of the day. For now, I'm constrained to making notes to myself in my notebook.

To pull an interesting analogy here, Google sees everything through the lens of "You will be connected 100% of the time to the network." which is their future point that they are building systems around, sometimes today they seem ungainly or even useless when no network is available. Jeff (and Amazon) seems to see everything through the lens of "You will consume all of your media on a tablet like device." and building around the complete media experience there.


I think it is a run-of-the-mill acquisition of power by a member of the super rich.

How much is it worth to have the WaPo as a mouthpiece?


It's $250mm for the WaPo brand. Empowering the ordinary citizen to contribute to the global pool of community information is the future. Blogging was the first attempt in this direction, but it has failed because the distributed nature of blogs doesn't support content discovery.

As far as I'm concerned, AMZN already has plenty of brand recognition to talk about any technological innovation they might integrate with the WaPo brand. I look forward to AMZN playing its cards in the space and seeing if they can compete against a truly focused and unencumbered competitor.

Production is easy, discovery and profitability are the problems.

Best wishes, Bezos!


"Production is easy, discovery and profitability are the problems."

I agree, and that is what makes this so interesting. Lets say you had a 'kindle store' like thing but it was "News for You", and it had a search box kind of like a search engine box, but you could pull up your Kindle, any time something was happening, and type "Boston Bombing" into the search box, And poof you'd get all the stories about the Boston Bombing available to read after downloading them over the cellular network. Can you buy "inches of news" like you buy cellular minutes? With a roll over plan?

There are some tremendously disruptive businesses here.


Or maybe a news platform that passively ranked community-generated content geospatially. Already built and innovating on the core platform...

:)


Journalistic institutions, in an effort to inform the masses, perform three critical functions: 1. Production of information, 2. Curation of information 3. Verification of information. A more colloquial way to say that might be "creation, curation, and fact-checking."

So far the creation aspect is almost entirely dominated by ordinary citizens. With nearly everyone carrying internet-connected devices for photo, video and text input, there's simply no way a news organization, no matter how large or well funded, can keep up.

Where "News" is still lacking now has more to do with the latter two points. The best content is invariably on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, etc. but finding that needle in the haystack that is a news event is borderline impossible for the "ordinary citizen." Even the major news organizations are largely poring over the data that comes in and trying to find the best stuff. The third part - the fact checking- not many have time for anymore. The world moves so quickly that verifying accuracy is much less beneficial than seeking the next scoop. News orgs can move fast, make mistakes, and issue retractions later if they were wrong. Or they can just say "we're getting reports that..." (Translation: "We're watching Twitter and people are saying...")

I truly believe that creating a system that allows ordinary citizens to curate (vote on) and fact check the firehose of information flowing through social media networks is the bright, sustainable, profitable (!) future of journalism.

Full disclosure: I've been building and testing a product for a year that does precisely that, so I'm a little bit biased.


> So far the creation aspect is almost entirely dominated by ordinary citizens.

Not true at all. The in depth long-form journalism that e.g. Matt Taibi does at Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog cannot be done by people who have day jobs with smartphone on a street corner. And it's thousands of times more valuable than the "man bites dog" type of stories that Joe Smartphone can capture.


Indeed! I have some journalist friends who, as a group, spent months just to write one piece of investigative journalism.

Another journalist friend once managed to work on something like that on his own, but only through crowdfunding.

Good journalism is expensive!


Ah yes, "investigative journalism", or as I like to think of it, "journalism". Not just reporting.


Indeed! I did a minor in journalism in the hopes of perhaps going in that direction professionally, only to realize that my idea of journalism was nothing like reality.

We spent a significant portion of the classes just learning how to write news items. The teacher then told us that what we were doing one day a week for six months is what full-time journalism students spend an entire year doing, and that this is much of what they'll be doing once they enter the job market.

She specifically advised those of us interested in being journalists to just get really good in our academic field, and move into journalism as 'specialists' from there.



Maybe. Is it the same thing though? Or even close enough? It doesn't seem so to me.


I don't know how to fix news. But like you said, Starbucks Steve and his buddies probably aren't the answer. Maybe they need to work together with journalists.


Journalistic institutions, in an effort to inform the masses

In my opinion this is very shortsighted and arguably the most commonly misconceived part of "today's" journalism. "Journalistic institutions" are commonly referred to in business as Publishers. Publishing has one very specific goal, just like any other business that exists, which is simply to make money.

I truly believe that creating a system that allows ordinary citizens to curate (vote on) and fact check the firehose of information flowing through social media networks is the bright, sustainable, profitable (!) future of journalism.

I agree. The problem is that this effort should not be monetized, or at least it should be monetized in a way that doesn't bias and obfuscated the proper dissemination of information. I can't grok a single possible way of this concept to exist in harmony. Good on you (and your team?) to try to tackle this.


I think that is what http://www.newsvine.com/ set out to be in the beginning - the curation and verification of submitted content - I haven't thought about it in years though and a quick look at the home page shows that it still isn't very popular and seems pretty partisan.

But I agree, finding a way to crowdsource all three points of journalism without it becoming a mob (see reddit after the boston bombing) sounds like exactly the sort of newsource I would be interested in.


Eh, kinda. Newsvine was a mix of syndicated news and user-produced articles (think bleacher report for news without paying the writers). It went to hell when MSNBC.com bought it in 2007.

The problem with Reddit is upvotes encourage sensationalism (that's what Reddit is, after all), but there's no feature to reign it in or induce some sanity. That's why having a fact check built in is critical.


I can't imagine what Reddit would look like with fact checking. Redditors would not be happy if a popular story drops off the front page because someone deemed in inaccurate. How would the incentive structure work?


Some of the serious communities (like AskHistorians) have very active and by-the-books moderators who foster really solid content. A reddit/sub-reddit structure with strong editors and encouragement could be useful in the news space.


Reddit was built with a different purpose in mind. People just use it because its the closest thing you have to what should exist


That product sounds interesting! Let us (or at least me) know when it begins to come available!


http://grasswire.com should be launching in a few weeks, just have to tie a few loose ends together.


Mmmmmm, grass!


Grassroots + newswire = grasswire


The article mentions that this is a Bezos-only deal, no Amazon involvement.


Come now, certainly you don't believe that. Capital structure is an integral piece of corporate strategy as is board construction.

Bezos has liquidated so much AMZN stock he doesn't need AMZN's balance sheet for a piddly $250mm transaction. He might even figure out how to do something he hasn't done at AMZN and that's turn a profit. The last I checked, AMZN still had an infinite PE.

By keeping WaPo remote he can at least create the appearance that AMZN is corporately neutral for whatever news platform ideas AMZN pursues.


This "amazon can't turn a profit" meme needs to die. They take in a ton of money. Just because they immediately turn around and spend it on the next cool project they've got happening doesnt mean they are a failing business. If their goal was to make the balance sheet look pretty, they could stop funding the production of original content for a couple of quarters, or stop investing in robotic fulfillment centres, or whatever else they are spending millions on. It would look like a profit then, but where's the fun in that?


Profit is for suckers. They focus on free cash flow.

Edit: Link: http://daslee.me/reading-jeff-bezos


> He might even figure out how to do something he hasn't done at AMZN and that's turn a profit.

You mean like the $645MM profit they made in 2008, the $902MM profit they made in 2009, the $1.15BN profit in 2010, or $631MM profit in 2011?

Or is all that nullified by the $39MM loss in 2012 (due to LivingSocial)?


considering they have a market cap of 137 billion, those are really tiny profits. Obviously the strategy at Amazon is to grow revenues and invest in the business, but that doesn't mean the parent is wrong. Amazon has essentially had no profit to speak of compared with their market cap over their entire company life. People investing in them have done so under the hope/expectation that once they reach their goal of ??? (world domination maybe?) the profits will be really big. That or they are just hoping a greater fool will buy their shares higher at some point in the future.


There was a very interessting article once (shame on me that I didn't bookmark it...) comparing the strategy of Apple and Amazon. Main point was that Amazon pursues a low (zero?) margin strategy.

Guess that's what commerce should be about, cash instead of margin. Aldi, a pretty big german discounter of grocceries, works that way and became huge. That they are loosing right now against "new" entrants is a different thing.

But having seen time and again profitable companies struggle in time of crisis simply because they run out of cash, I'd rather back a company like Amazon.


Was this the article that you were talking about?

http://www.eugenewei.com/blog/2012/11/28/amazon-and-margins


Yes, exactly that one! Thanks!


Growth is all that typically matters in the stock market. Investors really want to see this kind of steady increase in stock price, despite the difficult economic environment.

http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=AMZN+Interactive#symbol=A...

Unless you have some blue chip giving out dividends, no one cares much about profit.


Given how little tax they pay in the UK, I'm surprised it's not higher.


I'm not saying there will never be any tie-in, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect that AMZN <> WAPO will be similar to Apple <> Pixar when Steve Jobs owned both. Some tie-ins for those who know, but not some massive concerted effort as you implied.


If that's the case, why does the name change? IMHO that was in order for the old ownership to provide some dignity to the old Post (which broke many world-wide level news over the years, i.e. Watergate) from thew new ownership, in case J. Bezos turns the venerated newspaper into a trash magazine.


Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, whose reporters have broken such stories as the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandals and disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program in May.

Claiming credit for the NSA story seems disingenuous at best, especially given their antagonism towards Snowden:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/06/how-washingt...

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130702/11474423694/washin...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/10/washing...

EDIT: While acknowledging the WaPo's significant contributions in the early 70s, it seems like they lost their way somewhere along the line:

Washington Post Kills Account of Its Failures in Iraq Reporting and Runs a Defense Instead http://gawker.com/5992158/washington-post-kills-account-of-i...


It's worthwhile to point out that the people who write editorials and opinion columns for the paper are often firewalled somewhat from the actual journalists, so you can't really reduce it to a single belief that the entire organization has.

Especially a paper like the Washington Post which has a ridiculous number of opinion writers on staff.


I think the WaPo should start a section that's full of Hustler style porn. When people complain about porn in their Washington Post, they can just say "That's a separate department!". TLDR: if you disgrace your sub-organization, you disgrace the entire organization.


Can we have just one thread in HN that doesn't mention Snowden?


Please redirect your shock toward the US government.

And by the way, at the time of writing 27 of the top 30 articles don't mention Snowden in the comments, so...


I'd settle for a top comment that doesn't mention Snowden.


Yes, it's best we forget the whole affair and move on.


It's actually probably best, from the point of view of dealing with the NSA wiretapping, that we forget about Snowden and focus on what the NSA is still doing.

So the comment was both off topic and toxic towards what it wanted to advance.


Snowden: only thing in the world that matters.


There you go! I just used the "up" and "down" arrows, and lo, it came to pass.


I miss when people would submit articles about Erlang to flood out the politics.


Can't have a 2013 HN discussion thread without "Snowden" or "Google Reader". It's a machine-verifiable stamp of authenticity.


I am only upvoting you because I find your comment actually funny!

(Please do not get rid of any Snowden comments/posts on HN until the Police State is dismantled, hopefully by mid-next week.


It's a relevant point.

Feel free to bury your head in the sand.


Just like we cannot have Bootstrap threads without mentioning Foundation.


Bradley Manning!


Isn't this sort of Godwinning the thread? He didn't mention Snowden just for the sake of it, he was making a valid point.


Well if Snowden had given WaPo something other than a "publish in 48 hours" ultimatum there may have been less 'antagonism'. I'll say that the Washington Post Express I've been reading on the Metro was certainly not antagonistic to Snowden.


Sorry but did you even bother to read the links you posted ? Because the behaviour of Washington Post is completely legitimate and common sense. Of course they aren't just got to post the PRISM presentation verbatim without redaction.

From reading this I can understand the antagonism towards Snowden. He deserves it.


Why would something that's plainly true be "disingenuous at best". The WP broke the story.


Nope. Snowden gave the Post some of his info (the infamous slides), they refused to publish it, he gave it to the Guardian, who did publish it, and the Washington Post followed with their story one day later.

Glenn Greenwald broke the story in the Guardian.


Prism was not a day later. From the very article linked to above:

Although the Guardian and the Post published nearly simultaneously on the PRISM story, it looks like the Post may have beaten the Guardian, only just, in getting the story live.

I believe what you are referring to is the initial Verizon FISA story that started the whole thing.


The Guardian broke most of the leaks.


Didn't Snowden talk to The Guardian?


They deserve credit, they DID publish one of the first stories about it. The editorials page has been really shitty about the whole subject but in their defense it was already a cesspool before Snowden's NSA leaks.


- Mr. Bezos, we've bought Washington Post as you ordered.

- Good. I hope it's a fresh issue?

- ...issue!?


It.. seemed neater.


>“There would be change with or without new ownership. But the key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”

The Washington Post is an important institution for the USA, and comments like this make it seem that Bezos will be a good steward. I hope, and am fairly certain, that this is a good thing for everyone involved.


Apart from believing a public statement, do you have any reason to believe he will be a good steward of a journalistic entity?

As far as I know, he has no experience in reporting the unbiased truth and a lot of experience in selling stuff.


Most business owners try to maximize profit. Bezos is clearly not doing this for the money, so the paper will be less beholden to corporate/revenue interests and more beholden to Bezos himself. How that works out depends on how close to Plato's "benevolent dictator" Bezos ends up being; the statement says that he's planning to try.


I agree. I'm afraid if we want to keep lots of high quality journalism around, some of it is going to have to be subsidized in one way or another. Rich patrons are one way of doing that.


As far as I know, he has expertise in launching innovative technology at scale - something the Post desperately needs to stay afloat. Removing the politics of the business and replacing with innovation would do the whole country some good.


Interestingly, the Post's existing digital experimentation shop, WaPo Labs (http://www.wapolabs.com/), is specifically mentioned in the Post's official statement as one of the assets that is not included in the sale.

Update: Slashdot founder Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda (who was hired by WaPo Labs last year) confirms on Google+ that he and his team aren't going with the paper: https://plus.google.com/+CmdrTaco/posts/1V2ZpbjcgbB


Innovation is political.


Sure. But a family-run, corporate business is definitely more so.


He is the only loser if he sinks the WaPo. So in that light, Bezos has the incentive to at least maintain the paper's standing.


> As far as I know, he has no experience in reporting the unbiased truth and a lot of experience in selling stuff.

Yea, I hope his boss doesn't put him on a reporting job.


There's a natural conflict of interest when someone with large commercial interests outside the media also owns parts of the media.


Looks like Bezos has a propaganda arm now.

I mean, sorry for the cynicism, but this is an obvious conflict of interest. Retail, distribution, infrastructure, and now politics & media.

The man can do what he wants but the public probably shouldn't applaud this.


Is there anyone rich enough to buy a newspaper who wouldn't have a conflict of interest? Is there any human alive who wouldn't have a conflict of interest?


Of course not.

Doesn't mean we can't raise awareness of it each time it happens. That is, not applaud powerful people getting even more powerful.

There are also alternative forms of ownership, but that's a more complex subject not fit for a message board.


Honestly, I'm kind of happy that there's at least one person who knows the difference between HTML and TCP/IP helping to shape the conversation now.


Why?


I think because it is incredibly dangerous to have people who don't understand a subject passing legislation/informing public opinion on that subject.

At the very least it is a situation ripe for misunderstandings leading to bad end results and at the worst is fertile ground for lobbyists and special interests.


What do you imagine his role is? Editor? Tech journalist?


That is, not applaud powerful people getting even more powerful.

I've read here a hundred times complaints that mainstream media don't cover tech news as it should and I tend to agree.

Bezos is a rich, powerful man. But it's "our" rich, powerful man, so I for one, am happy with this acquisition.


You do realize that you're posting this comment on the propaganda arm of Y Combinator and PG right?


You're comparing HN to the Washington Post?

We happen to be a thoughtful community and a decent newsreader without (a lot of) hierarchy. If it migrates elsewhere, I will as well. I find many of Graham's old essays amusing in the abstract sense (they're Austrian Economics rehashed in the language of computer science), but question his intentions.


... a thoughtful community... (with loads of links to YCombinator startups forced in between)


I think he cares more about it being on the Kindle and the Fire than using it as his mouthpiece.


I agree, in the short run.

I suspect it's a power grab for influence in the long-term. Big media shapes the discourse, debate, and policy of the country. He can be a much more effective broker of business and societal matters now that he manages "the truth."

I think, at least :/


If that was the goal he would have had Amazon buy the company. Instead it's a "personal" acquisition.

It's possible this is an elaborate ruse to fool the Graham family into selling their crown jewel (reputationally, at least. The Kaplan test preparation unit is the tail that now wags the profit dog at Washington Post, Inc., as I understand it.). However, that seems like a stretch. I'd much rather have a paper run as a hobby by a man (even a profoundly eccentric one) who can afford it than a board desperate to maximize quarterly earnings.


It could be that it was a personal acquisition because Amazon isn't making a much of a net profit, and buying the Washington Post would cause Amazon stock prices to tank.


Is reporting a profession? What will the staff of WaPo do while Bezos is twisting "the discourse, debate, and policy"? Will they fade away quietly?


They will fall in line if they want to keep their job, just as they always have.


Watch The Wire. Specifically, Season 5.


I think that's an appropriate analysis; however, it would hold true for most people able to buy a newspaper and I have no specific fears heading in. That's pretty good given the current political climate.


Vigilance is the price of freedom and liberty.


The same could be said about any prospective owner of a newspaper. Is Bezos owning media interests really worse than anybody else? I'd argue that a new entrant into news media is much preferable to further consolidation of media among the currently small set of big players in the industry.


OK, the only ideal owners of a newspaper would be anthropologists from another planet who cared nothing about Earth affairs and only documented what they saw. But even failing that, you seem to see better journalism from competing groups of intellectually honest yet openly biased sources than from supposedly unbiased sources. With biased sources, you can just read every side and form your own opinion. With supposedly unbiased sources, you'd have to do the same thing anyway but it's much harder to figure out what their biases were to begin with.

And sure, people can be intellectually lazy and only read sources that they agree with, but the fallacy of unbiased journalism is that a handful of media outlets will end up providing that anyway, just with the illusion of impartiality.


I am informed because i gather both sides of the arguement when I watch CNN and fox news!


Impartiality: the American left and the American right!

It's all that matters. :P


Well yeah, that's my point--both of those sources claim to be unbiased, and neither of them are intellectually honest.


That's certainly a valid perspective, but it's not the only one. Why not a market with both?


Well I'm not going to go and stop people from trying to set up impartial newspapers. I just suspect it's a fools errand in the long run.


> The man can do what he wants but the public probably shouldn't applaud this.

I kinda disagree with you on this one. Not only will something like the Kindle and Kindle apps benefit, but this is a huge win since the old style of media wasn't capable of figuring out how to stay in business. The reason why the Kindle, iTunes, Google Play or any other store is succeeding while the rest are failing is because all the rest didn't have monetized digital distribution mechanisms. All media was given out for free and now you can't stay in business if you decide to pay-wall your website. They weren't smart about it. However all other walled gardens are thriving because they are monetized from the get go and an effort has been made to make them simple to use.

The public is the winner here, and the Kindle. The only loser is probably B&N.


All media was given out for free and now you can't stay in business if you decide to pay-wall your website. They weren't smart about it.

I submit that there was no possible set of actions the newspapers could have taken, including worldwide oligopolistic collusion, which could have produced a market in which any but a few "luxury" brands can charge media consumers directly. The basic service of telling us what happened over the last 12 hours is one that wants to be free.


Two successful approaches would have been freemium with a paid tier or multiple micro payments through an app just like today's in-app purchases. However no good mechanism was used and news outlets used the web as an advertising venue for themselves and as an advertising source of revenue. Both didn't have much ROI.


The public loses when a news source losses all credibility for being unbiased. We need more news organizations that are doing real hard hitting journalism and fewer media mouth pieces...long term this is not a good thing...


You have a media mouthpiece owned by Bezos. Don't complain too much. My choices for national media mouthpieces are owned by: Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rhinehart, The Australian Government.


Rinehart only owns 15% of Fairfax.

Also, what about all the TV and radio networks? Their ownership is wider than the three people you list.


Those 3 names feature pretty prominently in TV ownership. The two dedicated news services are Murdoch (sky) and govt (abc24). Rinehart also has a decent chunk of 10.

So I guess there's Kerry Stokes. And whoever is looking after 9 these days.


How can you characterize the Post pre-Bezos as being unbiased? Different biases, to be sure, but no news organization is free from bias.


Note that Amazon didn't buy the Washington Post.


It would be naive to think that the paper will produce an article that disparages Amazon's labor and business practices, now that it is owned by the same man that is the CEO of Amazon. I'm not sure what his stake is in the company, but I assume it's significant to raise this issue.


Given the traditional separation of editorial and business in newspapers, I wouldn't be shocked if the Post ran an Amazon hit piece just to test the boundaries.


The fact that this seems very plausible ought to give us pause when the actual event convinces us that they're still independent.


Damned if they do, damned if they don't?

That is a convenient position to hold. You can't be wrong!


> give us pause

Parent's point is that WaPo/Bezos shouldn't be damned either way in this case.


When he starts firing editors and controlling output, sure.


I presume this means he hasn't bought the WaPo company, and thus not other assets like Slate.


No slate.com, though there are many other assets. Check out page 4:

>The deal does not include the company’s headquarters on 15th St. NW in Washington (the building has been for sale since February), or Foreign Policy magazine, Slate.com, the Root.com, the WaPo Labs digital-development operation or Post-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria.


The headquarters building has actually been for sale anyway for a few months.


It looks like it includes "affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co." (see http://www.washpostco.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=62487&p=irol-landi... for a list)

(see showherst's comment for accuracy)


You're looking at the site for the Washington Post Company, not the Washington Post newspaper (confusing, I know).

EDIT: Nope, just the newspapers. See the press release -

The transaction covers The Washington Post and other publishing businesses, including the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.

Slate magazine, TheRoot.com and Foreign Policy are not part of the transaction and will remain with The Washington Post Company, as will the WaPo Labs and SocialCode businesses, the Company’s interest in Classified Ventures and certain real estate assets, including the headquarters building in downtown Washington, DC. The Washington Post Company, which also owns Kaplan, Post–Newsweek Stations and Cable ONE, will be changing its name in connection with the transaction; no new name has yet been announced


Nice, thanks!


Of all of the big Tech companies to have deep ties with a national news source, Amazon seems like a decent fit. They were one of the first retailers to allow negative reviews on their site and have a culture that allows employees to make decisions that prioritize long term thinking over short term profits ("willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time"[1]). This type of thinking is really important in an often buzzy industry that relies on advertising for revenue.

[1]: http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2013/01/jeff-bezos-on-leading-...


Interesting. Warren Buffet has always gobbled up a large chunk of newspapers (albeit not directly as an individual (ala Bezos), rather, through Berkshire Hathaway): http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-13/buffett-poised-to-a...

Buffett, 81, has been expanding Berkshire’s media operations in the past year as he wagers that publications focused on local communities can withstand the shift of readers and advertisers to the Internet. The billionaire’s firm bought the publisher of his hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald Co., in December, and acquired 63 daily and weekly newspapers from Media General Inc. (MEG) for $142 million last month.

Local papers vs something larger like WaPo.

And note: While Buffett’s firm holds the largest stake in Washington Post Co. (WPO) and has shares of Gannett Co., he said Berkshire is less likely to make more stock market investments in the industry.


It's a trendy thing amongst billionaires lately. Even in Australia they are trying it. I think there may have been a consensus of some sort made at one of the many "billionaire conferences" that happens every year.


Or they recognize, as they should, the role that media plays in society. Being in the media oligarchy expands your range of influence.


I've always understood Buffett's purchases to be meant to reinforce local papers against consolidation.


Does anyone believe or trust in the American propaganda machine (i.e. mainstream media)? We live in a world of stories that seem to be in a perpetual loop. When we eliminate news for the sake of ratings or the number of papers/magazines sold, then we return to a time when the media will resume reporting on things that matter. The "news" in the US is a dumbed down version of TMZ and that's being nice.


Lots of people love the american media. They usually believe it by reading news from one side of the political spectrum and confusing it with fact.

Half of what I read is bull and the other half is shit.


I don't see anyone majorly naysaying this move, but in case anyone does, remember that Jeff is smart. Very, very smart. I've heard him referenced to as "a hyper-intelligent alien who has only a tangential in human affairs" before. AMZN represents a bit of this.

My money's on Jeff - he's got something up his sleeve here.


Please stop with the nauseating idol-worship. He's a businessman trying to control more stuff and make more money.


Just because you don't find businessmen to be worthy of looking up, doesn't mean somebody else doesn't. There's plenty of room on HN for differing beliefs, even if you find it nauseating.

I regard earning money in a productive fashion and without the use of force to be one of the greatest things a person can do. That's my belief, and I don't force anybody else to agree with me.


Just because he's smart doesn't mean he's benevolent, right? I would never argue that he's stupid but I'd be curious to know if anyone has any insight into the extent to which he's likely to be making this purchase in order to gain influence of some kind.


Clearly with a $28 billion net worth (#15 in the world), and the head of Amazon.com, he is not lacking in influence. He already has that in spades. There isn't anybody in Washington that won't take his call.

There are radically cheaper ways to have influence. He could set up a PAC, seed it with $50 million, and directly buy whatever influence he needs.

The thing about buying one of the few really national papers and slanting its coverage: your competitors will have a field day and it won't be long before your paper is a joke that nobody takes seriously.

I don't think he has much room to abuse this for influence.


This is, in my opinion, an overly straightforward conception of influence. I'm not saying Bezos would want to buy the Washington Post in order to effect positive coverage of Amazon.

Calling people and starting a PAC with a transparent agenda is not nearly as powerful as controlling one of the few trusted, prestigious political news outlets left. You can influence operations without directly interfering in the newsroom, and you can do so while appearing to give the paper autonomy. The fact that flagrant, visible abuse would be self-defeating doesn't really tell us anything.

I guess I'd ask this: if the newspaper is not valuable for its influence, why buy it at all? It will not make him money, he is not bored. Even if he is buying it to keep it out of other hands, that remains an agenda and an active use of influence.


"it won't be long before your paper is a joke that nobody takes seriously"

Washington doesn't have room for another joke of a paper that nobody takes seriously[1]!

[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/


Media outlets are naturally biased in favor of their owners for obvious reasons.

Major newspapers have been systemically biased for decades but many people still take them seriously.


what does "… alien who has only a tangential in human affairs" even mean? he owns a huge commerce company and just bought a newspaper. isn't he trying to launch humans into space? didn't he recover the rockets from one of humanities greatest space exploits? doesn't he have a famous laugh?


It is from a Steve Yegge article accusing Bezos of treating his staff like assembly line machines.


It means that the quoted person doesn't think human beings are smart.


I was picturing Dr. Manhattan.


Great. Now it will be delivered in a 6 cubic foot box.


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.

A 1000 times. At least it won't turn into the next PandoDaily(and its BeachMint fiasco).


To put things into perspective, the $250M purchase price is lower than the purchase price of The Huffington Post at $315M.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/07/aol-huffington-post...


I'm still amazed that as reputed institute as Washington Post where shapes opinion of millions of people could be bought out at 1/4th of the price of Instagram.


The Huffington Post does not have pension obligations, and it doesn't pay its reporters six-figure salaries and benefits. (Well, not most of them, anyway.)


It doesn't do the same investigative reporting either.


They're completely different businesses. Huffington Post is a cross between a content farm, a bad women's magazine, and Daily Kos. The Washington Post is a newspaper.


I'm curious if Huffington could get the same price today.


Seems like he thought that the price was right for a publication with such a strong legacy, even if he doesn't have a grand plan for the immediate future. This sale was only offered to a very narrow pool of buyers, so I think that it was a very prudent purchase. He is friends with the previous ownership and undoubtedly felt that if he can preserve the publication in some shape or form, there is nothing but upside given the "drop in the bucket" price.


How long has Huffington Post been around?

The Washington Post seems to have an incredible reputation (especially if they really did break the Pentagon Papers and others) and be a fun purchase if you have f-you money.


I'm a bit surprised Buffett didn't make a play for that asset, particularly given his recent expeditions in buying more newspapers. Perhaps he regards Bezos as a better long term steward given the age difference. At the least Buffett had to give his blessing to this deal, and absolutely knew about it and chose not to outbid Bezos.


He played that asset a long time ago: Berkshire bought about 20% in 1973, and was on the board until 2011. But yes, he absolutely knew about this.

He paid $11 million and is getting about $44 million after 40 years of holding it. That's kind of lousy rate of return, and the newspaper business has some question marks. So I can see why he might not be interested in buying it. And if Bezos is buying the paper for civic-minded reasons, I could see Buffet encouraging him.


The Washington Post is only a small piece of the WPO company, which has a market cap of $4.4 Billion. So by my math Buffett paid $11 million for a 20% share of a company that's now worth $4.4 Billion, or a net return of 80 times over 40 years, which isn't up to Buffett's usual returns, but not too bad.


The WaPo is just a prominent member of what Joe Sobran so elegantly called "the Hive"--people who all think pretty much alike ("enlightened liberalism", in their own minds), know only other members of the Hive, and only read each other. (The NYT being the other major member.)

And nothing will change.


Announced after market close. Expecting NYT stock to rise quite a bit.

I was surprised when Jack Welsh (x GE) wanted to buy the Boston Globe (he backed out). He realized the the shine was one of the past. It's interesting that Bezos sees value here but I think the value is in the same sense taking a small part of his billions and buying something that is a legend. (After all rich people buy art and other trinkets because they can so why not a newspaper?).


I agree. Bezos is almost 50 years old now. What's the point of having $28 billion in assets if you can't do some interesting things with it (like Bezos Expeditions, the millennium clock, or retrieve the apollo engines).


Bezos was probably feeling a bit left out of the 'Seattle Philanthropic Billionaire Boys Club.'

Although, to his credit, he and his wife did kick in $2.5mm to the Washington state marriage equality referendum last November: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/07/27/jeff-be...


How does this mesh with his investment in Business Insider?

Is Jeff pursuing a content strategy? Washington Post for investigation and Business Insider for Biz news would be great.

Personally I'd rather have Jeff Bezos than Rupert Murdoch, but maybe that's just me...


Seriously don't EVER compare Bezos and Murdoch.

Murdoch is easily one of the most evil people to have ever walked on this planet. He enabled the Iraq war which has seen a mass loss of life for no real gain. He supported the widespread hacking of UK citizens. His meddling in politics and elections in the UK, US and Australia is unprecedented, brazen and has unquestionably undermined democracy.

Even now he flew over an Editor from the NY Post to Australia to influence the election here who already is shocking the political scene here.


Absurd to blame Murdoch for a war that had majorities of Congress vote for it. If any media outlet deserves some blame for Iraq, it was the New York Times. In any event, the Iraq war has saved lives compared to the sanctions regime that it replaced.


It is not absurd to blame Murdoch for his role in the war.

He didn't take a negative or neutral position. He actively campaigned for it across three continents (UK, US and Australia). And it has been widely reported that Blair was heavily influenced by Murdoch.

The NYT didn't officially take a position. It just failed in its duty to check the facts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_coverage_of_the_Iraq_War


...compared to the sanctions regime that it replaced.

Even if I were to believe that, it would be an odd comparison to make.


I think there is enough blame to go around.


He supported the widespread hacking of UK citizens.

Yeah him and healthy majorities of both houses of Congress. Did Parliament not get the memo?


I was talking about his papers actively hacking not the government.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_International_phone_hackin...


Murdoch's papers supported Rudd in Australia when he won in 2007.

Was that undermining democracy?


Murdoch was a major force in getting Gough Whitlam (of the Australian Labor Party) elected which was probably his first major step into the political scene. He was also a major force behind the election of Malcolm Frazer (of the Australian Liberal Party) a few years later. Just because he elects leaders from the left or the right does not mean he isn't influencing them. Murdoch has long had a hand in picking the government of the day. Why he picks one leader or another is less of an issue than the fact he is picking leaders.


Did you see the front page of the Daily Telegraph (highest circulation of any paper in Sydney) yesterday?

On the first day of an election campaign the headline was:

"Finally you now have the chance to KICK THIS MOB OUT"

http://resources3.news.com.au/images/2013/08/05/1226691/2756...

That is undermining democracy.


Are you in Australia right now ? There is a world of difference between what News Corp, Faifax, AFR etc papers have done in the past and what happened with the Daily Telegraph yesterday.

http://mumbrella.com.au/stephen-conroy-an-apology-171009


Why Murdoch wants Rudd to lose the coming federal election is not merely political, it is commercial. News Corp hates the government's National Broadband Network (NBN). The company has formed a view that it poses a threat to the business model of by far its most important asset in Australia, the Foxtel cable TV monopoly it jointly owns with Telstra.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013...


Amazon is moving towards funding their own TV shows, so it wouldn't be too surprising if Bezos was trying to generate his own content in other mediums as well.


Worth noting though, that Bezos, and not Amazon, bought WaPo.


Which simply means that he now has a content asset that he can license back to Amazon for distribution if he wishes. It's seems like it could be a lot like a business owner buying a building under a different company name only to lease it back to their primary business for a variety of benefits.


@untog

Hmm! Didn't notice that, interesting.


This is not a power grab - this is the natural effect of gravity - the last twenty years saw an almost cataclismlc shift in strategic leverage from non-Internet to Internet businesses, and now all that cash is exerting its pull - and power is sliding over the table.

Just watch as the rest of the baby boomer generation die off and hand over their assets.


What are you saying? That WaPo does not have strategic leverage or that the demographics of the owner-class is changing?


The latter


Is this in the category of buying sports teams, or does he expect to make money off of it?


A little of both I suspect. The Washington Post can generate a very modest profit if it's well run. It's around 1/4th to 1/5th the size of the New York Times.

The question would seem to be, whether Bezos intends to run a tight profitable ship, or if he is willing to forgo the profits for a larger staff. I'm hoping he has something creative in mind, a new business model that isn't free+ads or just a copy of what the NYT is doing.

WaPo is #8 by its daily circulation in the US, and #4 for its Sunday circulation.


I bet he puts up a paywall, but offers free access to Prime members. Combined with instant video and other benefits, Prime starts to look pretty attractive, even without the free shipping. But once you've got the free fast shipping, it's much easier to justify buying stuff from Amazon instead.


If Bezos integrates this with Amazon, how could this change the newspaper with respect to the Kindle and e-publishing? Could this change daily print media?


The article says that Amazon will have no role in the purchase. Time will tell if that's true, though. I'd love to have my Kindle be both my book library and an automatically updated copy of the newspaper every morning. Having tried Kindle newspapers, I've found them to be quite lacking (and pretty expensive). Some Kindle newspapers are even missing entire sections of the print version!


In this context, I think "Amazon will have no role in the purchase" just means that Bezos is buying WaPo with his own money, and he will own it personally. I don't think it precludes him from making deals between the two companies.


If he did, such a thing would usually need to be approved by a disinterested majority of a disinterested quorum of directors.


In practice, is that likely to be a serious impediment?


Maybe? It depends on whether the deal is plausibly good for the company or not. If so, i'd say "no, it's not a serious impediment".


At what level is this the case? If WaPo do a special optimization for Kindle? If they decide to order some laptops from AMZ? If AMZ headquarters installs a vending machine for the WaPo?


If Bezos, in his capacity as owner, directs them to do something.

Think of it this way: Jeff Bezos is a majority shareholder (at least according to reports, he is not taking on the chairman/CEO role). Normally, the only control a majority shareholder has is to elect/remove the board.

If he attempts to effect other control, particularly by suggestion to the board/whatever, they need to make disinterested decisions.

So the short answer to your question is "always". Every board decision needs to be made by disinterested directors after full disclosure of the facts by any interested directors. Anything else would be a self-dealing transaction, and would possibly subject them to personal liability.


He's not taking majority ownership, he's taking sole ownership. He can be the one and only director, and is entitled to make decisions in the interests of the sole shareholder (himself). The rules are different when there are no minority shareholders to protect.

> "Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days."


I doubt this is really true. It was a publicly traded company. Was it really the case that nobody else owned shares?

It also has a board of directors and a chairman of the board/CEO (which is who the "Don" guy he talks about is).


He's buying subsidiaries of The Washington Post Company, which are not publicly traded. He is not purchasing The Washington Post Company, which is a publicly traded company, and has numerous non-newspaper assets Bezos is not acquiring. This is explained in pretty much every article on the subject, including the one we're posting these comments about, and has likewise been explained in other HN comments about this purchase.

This is also explained in The Washington Post Company's August 5th 8K filing with the SEC[1], which states unambiguously "the Purchaser will acquire all the issued and outstanding equity securities of [...]" and "The Purchaser will not acquire the Company’s interests in [...]".:

> On August 5, 2013, The Washington Post Company (the “Company”), entered into a binding letter agreement (the “Letter Agreement”) with Nash Holdings LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (the “Purchaser”), and Explore Holdings LLC, a Washington limited liability company, as guarantor (the “Guarantor”), pursuant to which the Purchaser will acquire all the issued and outstanding equity securities of each of WP Company LLC, Express Publications Company, LLC, El Tiempo Latino, LLC, Robinson Terminal Warehouse, LLC, Greater Washington Publishing, LLC and Post-Newsweek Media, LLC (the “Publishing Subsidiaries”). The Publishing Subsidiaries together conduct most of the Company’s publishing businesses, including publishing The Washington Post, Express, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times and El Tiempo Latino and related websites, and operating Washington Post Live and Washington Post News Media Services and the Company’s commercial printing and distribution business and paper handling and storage business (collectively, the “Publishing Business”). The Purchaser will also acquire all other assets of the Company primarily related to the Publishing Business, including all of the Company’s rights in the name “The Washington Post”. The Company will change its corporate name within 60 days following the closing. The Purchaser will not acquire the Company’s interests in Classified Ventures, LLC, The Slate Group LLC, The FP Group, WaPo Labs and certain excluded real estate. Liabilities and assets under the Retirement Plan for The Washington Post Companies relating to the active employees of the Publishing Business will be transferred to the Purchaser.

"WP Company LLC", in particular, is the newspaper The Washington Post. See e.g. [2] which says "WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post.".

You can further consult The Washington Post Company's press release[3], which again states:

> Slate magazine, TheRoot.com and Foreign Policy are not part of the transaction and will remain with The Washington Post Company, as will the WaPo Labs and SocialCode businesses, the Company’s interest in Classified Ventures and certain real estate assets, including the headquarters building in downtown Washington, DC. The Washington Post Company, which also owns Kaplan, Post–Newsweek Stations and Cable ONE, will be changing its name in connection with the transaction; no new name has yet been announced.

[1] http://services.corporate-ir.net/SEC/Document.Service?id=P3V...

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/terms-of-service/2011/11/18/gI...

[3] http://www.washpostco.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=62487&p=irol-newsA...


automatically updated copy of the newspaper

I have never really been drawn to the Kindle for books (except the large-but-expensive model) but it would be ideal for daily news - in fact the screen seems to pick up where newsprint left off. I'm old-fashioned enough to even like the idea of having everything in black & white.


I'm not sure if this is good news. Doesn't this portend further monopolistic control over publishing and distribution? Amazon isn't known to fairly and openly distribute its content.


Let's all hope that this day we have witnessed the birth of the anti-Murdoch.


I will celebrate by watching "Citizen Kane."


I think that this signals that Bezos is going into the fish and chips business.


I was thinking about this when I heard the announcement, and I thought, what a disruptor! Here are some ways that a newspaper (with "internet content") would be superior than digital media:

  * Much larger viewing area than an iPad
  * It's more compact than an iPad
  * It's cheaper than an iPad
  * It's disposable
  * It's recyclable
  * You can use it in places digital media aren't allowed
    (security buildings, airplane takeoff/landing, subway, etc)
  * You don't have to know how to use it
  * You don't need a data plan or need to use a computer
  * You don't have to recharge it
All you have to do is create targeted content and sell to places that digital media doesn't work as well. Fill with context-specific in-line ads and make it more interesting to the target market audience. (And probably figure out a new way to print it so that makes monetary sense)


Lots of cynicism around here.

Nobody is saying that Bezos will be a steward of good journalism (I can't see him doing much worse as the head of a major news medium than Rupert Murdoch, though) and has reasons to buy the paper that go beyond, ultimately, making more money.

But from a technology enthusiast standpoint, it can't be denied that the guy has a amazing track record of innovating the sectors he has been involved in, and personally I'm curious to see how he will tackle this one.

The main takeaway from the story, in my opinion, is seeing a steady trend of the "new" technology companies trying to get in a position of influence, like Facebook interested in getting into politics, Google having already plenty of lobbying/funding activities, and now Amazon getting its own paper...


> I can't see him doing much worse as the head of a major news medium than Rupert Murdoch

Worst compliment ever.


Off-topic but I've noticed you've racked up a lot of karma in a short period of time:

created: 9 days ago

karma: 549

avg: 2.34

Has to be a record.


Yeah, I should stop saying intelligent things. ;-)



I want the addition of a Single Page button to be one of his first accomplishments.


He'll just patent it as 1-click viewing.


"...The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.

"There is no map" -from a proven visionary worth $25.2B, leaves a whole lot of successful innovations and failures open.


From the article:

> Weymouth said the decision to sell The Post sprang from annual budget discussions she had with Graham late last year. “We talked about whether [The Washington Post Co.] was the right place to house The Post,” she said. “If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for The Post.”

Does this mean that the future of much of journalism is in the non-profit sector (think NPR)?


I'm kind of surprised, but this seems like the best possible direction for them. Sort of like Chris Hughes buying The New Republic, Bezos has the cash to give the Post breathing room to find a direction that will be profitable. And, ostensibly, he won't want to turn it into Buzzfeed.


"give the Post breathing room to find a direction that will be profitable"

Could be but I don't think that's the case. I think there is something else going on here either vanity or some underlying access or asset that provides much greater value to Bezos that has not much to do with Amazon either.

I mean if you have that much money you can afford to buy and have it lose money for years just for other valuable benefits and access. WP is a mouthpiece he could swing elections (influence is way beyond their circulation).


I mean if you have that much money you can afford to buy and have it lose money for years just for other valuable benefits and access.

You can, but you can also believe in journalism and be willing to spend some of your money on keeping it alive.

Not sure we can really make an automatic judgement either way.


There's now a box in the lower-left informing me that I can view 20 articles in a month before they'll put up a paywall. I don't recall ever seeing anything about a paywall before.

If that's actually new, Bezos sure didn't waste any time monetizing things.


I am convinced one of his next moves is going to be brick and mortar. He has already tested the concept of free showrooms for Amazon via the likes of Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, etc - so it's only natural to move back to the physical world.


I remember reading a story about how he turned Amazon into a platform to make it more nimble and faced a lot of resistance, and it gave me a good impression of his leadership abilities. This purchase is probably a good thing.


For some reason this blows my mind. Man, it would be so cool to own the paper that paid the guys that broke Watergate. But it seems so...weird that it would be Bezos. I'd love to see the first meeting.


I hope the plan involves taking WaPo's news gathering expertise and delivering seamlessly through all possible channels -- don't just fix a newspaper, fix the news.


It's noteworthy that the Washington Post sells for $250MM, compared to for example OMGPOP which sold for $200MM last year.


Meanwhile the Koch brothers want to buy the LA times...I will grab my popcorn and wait for the hilarity.


Was it what he negotiated at Bilderberg club this summer in Watford, UK?


Bezos goal may be to force users to more digital media. Amazon has been trying to push its publications by forcing book print companies out of the market, by cornering newspapers as well, Amazon could make it self the centralized location for e-media.


Guess what the next freebie for Amazon Prime subscribers will be.


Another newspaper owned by a corporation. I'm sure this is going to end well.

Can't wait for it to become another CNBC infomercial.


Jeff Bezos bought the Post personally - Amazon did not buy it.


Ah true, but the underlying effect will be the same.


What did you imagine newspapers were owned by?


Not by massive corporations or their ceos.


Pretty much every newspaper is a corporation... that's the only legal entity that makes sense, given that it has to own a building, pay salaries, sue and be sued, etc.

Being owned by a massive non-media-related corporation would be concerning, but this is Bezos personally.


Bezos has a halo, but I don't believe in angels.

For journalism to be truth, it must remain independent.


I think Jeff Bezos will be bigger than Steve Jobs one day.


Welcome to micromanagement to its extreme


Hope Bezos revamps the site's design. It's quite ugly.




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