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August 5, 2013 2:08 PM   Subscribe

The Washington Post will be sold to Jeff Bezos for $250 million, ending four decades of the Graham family. Amazon will have no role in the purchase.
posted by stbalbach (130 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazon will have no role in the purchase.

There goes my joke about whether he used One-Click purchasing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:11 PM on August 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


"I think it would be fun to run a newspaper . . . "

!!!
*crumples letter*
posted by petebest at 2:12 PM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Excellent. I can keep not reading the Washington Post.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:12 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Stunning news. But . . . I am still a faithful Washington Post reader and I have been worried about its survival. I think this may be a Very Good Thing.
posted by bearwife at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


He should have added it to his cart and waited for the price to drop.
posted by stltony at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


Speaking of jokes, there's one to be made about how the last Metafilter post using the 'jeffbezos' tag was about him funding the retrieval of Apollo F-1 rocket engines from the bottom of the ocean -- something to do about spending a bunch of his money to get once cool junk that's underwater. I'll leave it up to the reader to complete while I do something more pleasurable like imagining George Will being forced to work in an un-air-conditioned warehouse as a temporary employee.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013 [44 favorites]


Watch out, Boston Globe!
posted by box at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013


I look forward to the hard-hitting investigative report of malfeasance at Amazon.com.
posted by symbioid at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


Please tell me there was a time jump and this is a headline from April 1st, 2014.

Please.
posted by Kitteh at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013


Good for him, if they were in financial trouble.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013


I have no idea whether to activate my Apocalypse Alarm or not. Is Bezos more evil than whoever owns the Post now? Are we all just artisanal tchotchkes to the 1%? Will Bezos eventually absorb all that is Not Bezos?
posted by emjaybee at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


God almighty that's cheap for such a nameplate news organization.
posted by four panels at 2:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [20 favorites]


Is Bezos more evil than whoever owns the Post now?

It was on the block to be sold, so it's more about who the other bidders were.
posted by smackfu at 2:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone have a read on his politics? I'm hearing some libertarian stuff but he has also donated to Democrats and supported gay marriage so I don't really have much idea.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:17 PM on August 5, 2013


Are newspapers turning into sports teams where they're vanity projects for the rich that run mostly at break-even?
posted by GuyZero at 2:17 PM on August 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Overheard:

"Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos just bought The Washington Post for $250 million. In a totally unrelated story, a complimentary Washington Post subscription is now included on all orders over $25 with your Amazon Prime membership."
posted by TangerineGurl at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone have a read on his politics? I'm hearing some libertarian stuff but he has also donated to Democrats and supported gay marriage so I don't really have much idea.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:17 PM on August 5


From what I've read Bezoz is a pretty solid Libertarian (of the Silicon Valley variety, not the lunatic Tea Party strain.)
posted by four panels at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"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."
posted by bdz at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013


A lot of sports teams are incredibly profitable. (in part thanks to that nice stadium building socialism)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Watch out, Boston Globe!

The Globe was just purchased by Red Sox owner John Henry. So, now the trend is that only Rich Guys Who Can Afford It will purchase newspapers, because they can and love nostalgia and want to keep them propped up. Until they die. After that, I'm not sure what will happen to the newspaper industry.
posted by Melismata at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I think newspapers have traditionally been vanity projects for wealthy families. It's just new wealthy people owning them, now.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [73 favorites]


Rosebud?
posted by homodigitalis at 2:20 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Apparently the sale was privately advertised to only a few potential buyers. Bezos is a personal friend of Donald Graham, the current chairman of The Washington Post Company, (and formerly Publisher of the Washington Post as his father, mother and grandfather were before him, and also on the board of directors at Facebook)

In an open letter to the employees, Bezos promises that no swift changes are planned, and that he will not be taking a hands-on role in DC.
posted by jacalata at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013


To be clear, Bezos did not just support gay marriage. The Bezoses gave $2.5 million to our legalization effort here in Washington State, which made them the single biggest single donor in the campaign.
posted by Apropos of Something at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [33 favorites]


"Based on your recent purchases, you may also be interested in THE NEW YORK TIMES"

A week after the deal is finalized, he'll get an automated email asking for a five-star product review if he's satisfied with his purchase.
posted by mrbill at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [24 favorites]


Watch out, Boston Globe!

You mean the Boston Globe that the NY Times bought for $1.1billion and sold to John Henry (one of the Red Sox owners) for $70million in cash, that Boston Globe? I think it's a little late for the warning.

On the other hand, given that the NY Times claims it had offers of up to $100 million for the Globe but sold it for $70 million because the $70 million was cash, I suspect it may be the Times that needs to watch out.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Post-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria

So...if that's not going along with the Post, then who will own it?
posted by psoas at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2013


So true, Elementary Penguin! I just learned that the Taylor family who owned the Globe in the early 1900s, also owned the Red Sox, and they gave the team to one of their alcoholic cousins to run because they needed something for him to do.
posted by Melismata at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something tells me that the name of the new/old Post Co. will be Kaplan Inc. or something along those lines.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2013


Idea for a wealthy poison merchant in D&D: Jeff Bezoar
posted by jason_steakums at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You mean the Boston Globe that the NY Times bought for $1.1billion and sold to John Henry (one of the Red Sox owners) for $70million in cash, that Boston Globe? I think it's a little late for the warning.

Don't cry for the NYT; they made tons of money off the Globe while it was still profitable.
posted by Melismata at 2:23 PM on August 5, 2013


Are newspapers turning into sports teams where they're vanity projects for the rich that run mostly at break-even?

Hasn't this pretty much always been true? Even Hearst was mostly in it for the power and the politics. Most of the money came from other industrial interests.
posted by zachlipton at 2:23 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, they really are changing the name. It'll be interesting to see what it gets changed to. I'm sure whatever it is will seem odd.
posted by cashman at 2:24 PM on August 5, 2013


You might also like the Anchorage Daily News.
posted by spitbull at 2:24 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


The comments section on Politico's post on this are all weeping and gnashing over the liburl bent Bezos will wield at the post. So that's pretty enjoyable to watch.
posted by msbutah at 2:25 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of the money came from other industrial interests.
posted by zachlipton


Let me finish that thought: whose profitability could be enhanced through biased media coverage.
posted by spitbull at 2:26 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone have a read on his politics? I'm hearing some libertarian stuff but he has also donated to Democrats and supported gay marriage so I don't really have much idea.

He's not too fond of unions, for one thing. That is, unless the Amazon warehouses have gotten more humane and workers don't get carted to hospitals due to heat exhaustion.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2013


Oh, they really are changing the name. It'll be interesting to see what it gets changed to. I'm sure whatever it is will seem odd.

Aren't they talking about changing the name of the company that used to own the Washington Post, because they don't own it anymore and "Washington Post Company" would be silly?
posted by smackfu at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2013


He's not too fond of unions, for one thing.

Has any business owner ever been a fan of unions? Owners don't ask them in, the employees force them in.
posted by smackfu at 2:28 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Presumably he will evilly make it competitive with other media.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]




Step 2: Replace journalists with Amazon Mechanical Turk
posted by jason_steakums at 2:33 PM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure why people have a problem with this. I'd rather it be Bezos that bought the Post than Murdoch or worse yet some private equity firm who would fire half the staff.
posted by photoslob at 2:36 PM on August 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


From what I've read Bezoz is a pretty solid Libertarian (of the Silicon Valley variety, not the lunatic Tea Party strain.)

I guess that's better, like arthritis vs terminal cancer.

In an open letter to the employees, Bezos promises that no swift changes are planned, and that he will not be taking a hands-on role in DC.

Sounds just like the letter businesses bought by Amazon get.
posted by weston at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had something witty to say, but I think just transcribing my immediate reaction to this is probably the thing to do:

WHAT?!?!
posted by oonh at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I can picture is the cat at the breakfast table: I SHOULD BUY A NEWSPAPER.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:38 PM on August 5, 2013 [27 favorites]


WaPo = 1/4 tumblr?
posted by FuturisticDragon at 2:39 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know why, but I get the feeling that it's a bit more of an "I'm from the internet and I'm here to save your business model" thing than a using news influence to shape policy thing.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:40 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


i'm pretty torn about this. on one hand, if this is what it takes to save my industry, then fine whatever, let's put an APB out for all internet billionaires to come buy all the newspapers to stop them from imploding.

on the other hand..... just... i... what. IS THIS WHAT IT HAS COME TO, JOURNALISM? JEFF BEZOS HAS TO HELP YOU?
posted by kerning at 2:43 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


IS THIS WHAT IT HAS COME TO, JOURNALISM? WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST HAS TO HELP YOU?
posted by GuyZero at 2:46 PM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


> I'm not sure why people have a problem with this. I'd rather it be Bezos that bought the Post than Murdoch or worse yet some private equity firm who would fire half the staff.

Ditto. The rote "hurf durf Bezos lol" stuff is pretty tiresome; I hope we've gotten it out of the way and can actually have the interesting discussion I came here for.
posted by languagehat at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


[...] something to do about spending a bunch of his money to get once cool junk that's underwater [...] imagining George Will being forced to work in an un-air-conditioned warehouse as a temporary employee

You really should have split that into two separate comments so I could favorite them both. One is not nearly enough.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess that stenography stuff just doesn't pay the bills as well as that stuff they used to do. What was it called, again? Germ-a-lism? Well, something like that.

Maybe they'll go back to doing that again.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2013


The Amazon Post
posted by goethean at 2:48 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apart from Jennifer Rubin, the Post's political bloggers (Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, Jonathan Bernstein, etc) are pretty good. It's their opinion section that is almost uniformly horrid, with the likes of perpetually befuddled racist Richard Cohen and torture memo creator/fetishist Marc Thiessen. And they bought up the Capital Weather Gang, who are by far the best weather and climate bloggers out there. But the rest of it is pretty meh, and the paper itself deserves the losses in subscribers and advertisers.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:52 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Man, I always wonder if comedy writers just lurk on newsfilter type posts and just let the jokes roll in. Y'all are funny as hell.
posted by resurrexit at 2:55 PM on August 5, 2013


The tragic option would have been an Amazon purchase locking up WP content for the Kindle ecosystem, gutting staff and wringing maximum value from the WP brand before it fades. This looks more like a billionaire buying his way into an exclusive club. It's now in Bezos's interest to keep the WP in good standing, in the same way that owners of successful sports teams get more respect than those of bad ones.
posted by Blue Meanie at 2:55 PM on August 5, 2013


rob malda: "my team was not a part of the deal"

Jeff Bezos is buying The Washington Post. Here's what that means. "Nothing about Wonkblog changes, so far as we know. We'll be here tomorrow, and the next day, and after the transaction closes in around 60 days, bringing you the latest news and analysis of everything that matters in the worlds of domestic and economic policy."

Some thoughts on The Post being sold to Amazon's Jeff Bezos - "Bezos owns one of the largest and most influential companies in America. Amazon's political interests extend across everything from state sales taxes to the minimum wage to trade with China. It's doubtful that Bezos intends to aggressively use The Post to advance Amazon's legislative goals. But over time, who knows?"

Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook will own lots of content - "I expect two or three major publishers, with stacked names ('Penguin Random House'), and they will be owned by Google, Apple, Amazon, and possibly Facebook, or their successors... Those companies have lots of cash, amazing marketing penetration, potential synergies with marketing content they own, and very strong desires to remain focal in the eyes of their customer base... tech companies are waiting to buy the content companies, including the booksellers, on the cheap... tech companies will own some on-line education too..."
posted by kliuless at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


From homunculus' Slate link above:

But he's famously run Amazon as a deliberately low-margin, growth oriented firm.

This could be really key. David Simon (among others, and more famously than most) credits the ruin of American newspapers not to the internet but to their treatment as profit centers and the shareholder demand for CEOs who will return higher margins every year. Say what you will about Bezos and profits but he seems willing and able to run a company indefinitely and persue his goals with almost perfect indifference to the bottom line motivation of typical owners.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:01 PM on August 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


I'm sure David Simon will be very happy about this, given his infamously sunny disposition.
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:05 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aren't they talking about changing the name of the company that used to own the Washington Post, because they don't own it anymore and "Washington Post Company" would be silly?

They should call it the Post Washington Post Company.
posted by alexei at 3:05 PM on August 5, 2013 [25 favorites]


I heard they're going to add same-day delivery!
posted by oulipian at 3:05 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Will Bezos eventually absorb all that is Not Bezos?

I don't know, but I'm looking forward to a Bezos v Zuckerberg clash in a Godzilla/Mothra kind of way.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this could be good. Rich people keeping these things afloat, damn the P&L statement, may be the best we can hope for.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2013


i'm pretty torn about this. on one hand, if this is what it takes to save my industry, then fine whatever, let's put an APB out for all internet billionaires to come buy all the newspapers to stop them from imploding.

on the other hand..... just... i... what. IS THIS WHAT IT HAS COME TO, JOURNALISM? JEFF BEZOS HAS TO HELP YOU?
The entire reason that journalism is on the ropes is because they haven't adjusted to the Internet, which may well be about as important an innovation for the industry as moveable type was.

Who better to save the business side of journalism than an internet business person? Particularly one who takes a long-term view rather than a short-term view? Bezos is the man who's employing a team to design and build a clock that will run for 10,000 years without human intervention, as a monument to the idea of long-term thinking. Certainly he'd be a better steward than the Koch brothers or even Warren Buffet when it comes to understanding this new playing field. And a purchase by Bezos is certainly better than a purchase by Murdoch, who is the typical type of media mogul. Who wants to claim that Murdoch is good for journalism?

Generalizing heavily, I'd say that as a field journalism has not respected the Internet or the way that these new forms of communication can be empowering rather than destructive. Being a curmudgeon is easy and lazy, and far too many in journalism mistake Andy Rooneyism for insight or even wisdom when it comes to the Internet, as if it's self-evident that computer nerds can't do anything as important or useful or serious as JOURNALISM. I think these people have got it exactly reversed who's serious and who's a joke.
posted by Llama-Lime at 3:14 PM on August 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


He just happened to be in DC and thought he'd buy a newspaper while he was there.
posted by no relation at 3:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


All just a big misunderstanding. He actually want a Washington Post.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


He also knows the right people to talk to about getting some kind of crazy electronic subscription service going, for all those kids with kindles and fires and whatnot who have never seen a newspaper.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


He just happened to be in DC and thought he'd buy a newspaper while he was there.

He didn't even have to leave his hotel. They just left it in front of his suite door in the morning and added $250mil to his bill.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:24 PM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Say what you will about Bezos and profits but he seems willing and able to run a company indefinitely and persue his goals with almost perfect indifference to the bottom line motivation of typical owners.

He's only been able to do that because he's convinced everybody that where he to ease off the growth spending AMZN would be massively profitable. Its hard to see where that's the story with the Post.
posted by JPD at 3:33 PM on August 5, 2013


He's only been able to do that because he's convinced everybody that where he to ease off the growth spending AMZN would be massively profitable. Its hard to see where that's the story with the Post.

Given that he personally bought the newspaper outright from the Washington Post Company, he can tell any story he wants -- he doesn't have to convince anyone of anything and can accept any margin he's comfortable with. As Elementary Penguin points out above, this is actually a pretty traditional model for newspaper ownershop.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:41 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


oops, actual open letter from bezos is here (thanks filthy light thief!)
posted by jacalata at 3:55 PM on August 5, 2013


Bezos is the man who's employing a team to design and build a clock that will run for 10,000 years without human intervention, as a monument to the idea of long-term thinking. Certainly he'd be a better steward than the Koch brothers or even Warren Buffet when it comes to understanding this new playing field.

But what if he's only doing that so the clock includes a a plaque which reads "Funded by Jeff Bezos--Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" or a giant statue of Bezos which chants "REMEMBER ME" and belches fire at the start of each millennium?

I really don't see how this makes him a better custodian than any other wealthy rich guy.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:57 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given that he personally bought the newspaper outright from the Washington Post Company, he can tell any story he wants -- he doesn't have to convince anyone of anything and can accept any margin he's comfortable with. As Elementary Penguin points out above, this is actually a pretty traditional model for newspaper ownershop.

That's fine - my point was that the way he runs AMZN works because of the particular story he spins, that's not the case with his ownership of the WaPo. You can't read across from one on to the other.

Indeed - he doesn't have to fund cash shortfalls at Amazon, he will have to fund them at the WaPo.
posted by JPD at 3:58 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed - he doesn't have to fund cash shortfalls at Amazon, he will have to fund them at the WaPo.

Amazon's market cap is currently $132 billion. Bezos's personal fortune is $22 billion. He could probably fund the cash shortfalls at the WaPo out of the change he finds in his couch cushions.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Rich people didn't get to be rich by lighting money on fire. He might tolerate the losses for a while, but eventually he'll start trying to make it break even.
posted by JPD at 4:21 PM on August 5, 2013


Yeah, the way this represents still more concentration of media interests and control thereof by the 1% I don't think there's a real happy side to this story, except inasmuch as this appears to be as benign a manifestation as there could be (vice Murdoch, or the rumors that the Koch brothers are circling properties like the LA Times). And there could be an upside to be sure -- I just don't feel wholly confident there is one, unless you count the internet itself as being the upside having summarily broken the old business models journalism had relied upon.
posted by dhartung at 4:24 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting post, interesting times.

The Moonies own one, and now the Marsies own the other.
posted by jamjam at 4:25 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dude owns his own moon rocket.
posted by Artw at 4:26 PM on August 5, 2013


the way this represents still more concentration of media interests and control thereof by the 1%

I'm pretty sure the Graham family would qualify as being in the "1%."
posted by dsfan at 4:41 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I eagerly await the transition of the Post from one wealthy owner to another!
posted by MoonOrb at 4:43 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon's goal with the Kindle platform is to slowly take other publishers out of the equation, as much as possible, with writers essentially publishing directly through Amazon and Amazon-owned subsidiaries. Bezos won't do all of this overnight, not because he can't, but because moving fast and aggressive gets the antitrust brigade's attention, as others have found out. But anyone who pays any attention to his company or works there knows what's on the horizon. Having a newspaper on hand is sensible, not least because it fits neatly into Amazon's larger, longer-term business model where digital media and delivery/consumption platforms are concerned.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:43 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyone have a read on his politics? I'm hearing some libertarian stuff but he has also donated to Democrats and supported gay marriage so I don't really have much idea.

Pretty much your classic wealthy libertarian--pro-individual rights, as long as those individual rights don't involve making even the smallest dent in his massive coffers. He was one of the major donors to defeat an initiative* to establish a state income tax on people earning >$200,000/year in Washington state. (Washington, for reference, has one of the most regressive tax structures in the country.)
*trivia: the initiative was spearheaded by William Gates. No, not that William Gates; his dad.
posted by kagredon at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Only two of the Graham children were involved in running the Post. (re the references to the "Graham Family" in throughout the thread.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:54 PM on August 5, 2013


"I think it would be fun to run a newspaper . . . "

I want to search for a sled on Amazon and leave the review "Rosebud...."

Ditto. The rote "hurf durf Bezos lol" stuff is pretty tiresome;

Alas, it is an expected reaction. The news is rather strange and unexpected, after all. This is a good time for jokes; at least it's not an NSA thread, where the comedy will be decidedly darker. Anyway, there has been some interesting reactions to this here, I think there's been a good mix of laffs and hmmms.

or a giant statue of Bezos which chants "REMEMBER ME" and belches fire at the start of each millennium?

ALL HAIL DUKE! DUKE IS LIFE! (sorry languagehat)
posted by JHarris at 4:58 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are worse people who run newspapers, at least it's not Murdock or Scaife.
posted by octothorpe at 5:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I really don't see how this makes him a better custodian than any other wealthy rich guy.

> Yeah, the way this represents still more concentration of media interests and control thereof by the 1% I don't think there's a real happy side to this story

> I eagerly await the transition of the Post from one wealthy owner to another!

Yeah, yeah, eat the rich, I'm not crazy about them either, but seriously: who do you think is going to own a major newspaper, a radical socialist blogger? The owner has to be a rich person or a faceless corporation, and the best we can hope for is that it will be a rich person who values journalism, because a corporation is far more likely to milk it for immediate value and junk it for scrap when it's milked.

> Anyway, there has been some interesting reactions to this here, I think there's been a good mix of laffs and hmmms.

Yeah, I agree. I wasn't meaning to come off as "no jokes! this is serious!"—I come to MeFi for good snark as well as good analysis, after all—I was just impatient to get to the good analysis.
posted by languagehat at 5:34 PM on August 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Jack Shafer: "How could I have missed Bezos as a candidate for ownership?"

Although the libertarian movement claims Bezos as one of its own and he runs his company as free of government influence as he can, the political donations made by the Amazon PAC mark Bezos as a very practical beyondist: He contributes to both parties almost equally.
posted by mediareport at 5:50 PM on August 5, 2013




wait, Slashdot is owned by the WaPo?
posted by xbonesgt at 5:56 PM on August 5, 2013


Yeah, yeah, eat the rich, I'm not crazy about them either, but seriously: who do you think is going to own a major newspaper, a radical socialist blogger?

How about a trust which exists for the sole purpose of keeping the paper in print?

The owner has to be a rich person or a faceless corporation, and the best we can hope for is that it will be a rich person who values journalism, because a corporation is far more likely to milk it for immediate value and junk it for scrap when it's milked.

But what if the shares of that faceless corporation came with each 12-month subscription and paid out no dividends ala the Green Bay Packers?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:57 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bezos is the man who's employing a team to design and build a clock that will run for 10,000 years without human intervention, as a monument to the idea of long-term thinking.

Not his baby, not his "employees." He came in with money long after Danny Hillis came up with the idea.
posted by user92371 at 6:35 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


As ever, rich guys buy media enterprises to gain power and influence in the culture through control over influential communications. Thinking of it as a pure business deal short-changes a deep history of this exact process shaping the media in any epoch.

Bezos bought himself a tool.
posted by spitbull at 6:39 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


or a giant statue of Bezos which chants "REMEMBER ME" and belches fire

The voice of the statue cracks me up just thinking about it.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:48 PM on August 5, 2013


Honestly, I think newspapers have traditionally been vanity projects for wealthy families. It's just new wealthy people owning them, now.

This is true except that in the past, those wealthy families were made wealthy by the newspapers they owned, which were effectively monopolies for most of the 20th century, with very high profit margins. This is no longer possible. Now, they are being bought as trophies by people who made their money elsewhere.

Time will tell whether these new owners (a) are smart enough to turn the newspaper business into a profitable proposition again, (b) are dumb enough to keep shoveling money into an industry that has been in a long, slow death spiral for at least 7 years (and has been losing market share in advertising and readership for more than 60 years), or (c) get tired of their new, shiny but cash-burning toys, shut them down and walk away.
posted by beagle at 6:54 PM on August 5, 2013


Many newspapers are still not actually losing money; they are losing their ridiculous margins of profit. And while I agree newspapers were extremely slow to respond* to the internet threat to their businesses, there's no good way to make money when a. virtually no one wants to pay to read the news b.internet ads have never had anything close to the value of print ads.

*In the 1990s, I bounced out of newspapers to a tech-magazine operation run by a company that was populated by a lot of software/engineering types. I was amazed at the speed at which the magazines could reinvent themselves to respond to changes in the market. After returning to a traditional newsroom, I was equally shocked at how cumbersome and hidebound the newsroom was. Yes, the quality of writing and reporting and management structure was better; if there was a breaking story, the newspaper could assemble a damned fine report, certainly better than that computer magazine operation. But it was not able to see what was happening with the internet or accept that it had to change to respond to it. The handful of newsroom leaders who recognized it as a threat too often couldn't figure out how to respond other than to disparage internet-based news as superficial. Part of the failure to respond correctly was that newsroom people took pride in not seeing themselves as a business--journalism was a calling; let the ad people worry about the revenue.
posted by etaoin at 7:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


As someone who loves the newspaper variety of news organization, I find this very hopeful. Bezos might be able to do something with this.

NPR (I can't figure out which show, nor can I find the language in any of the transcripts) had some interesting analysis on this this evening. It reiterated one of the points about newspaper journalism that I find most important: despite the shrinking personnel and the competitive environment and the scarcity of money, newspaper organizations are still producing an enormous amount of the news content people consume daily. The stat I heard given on the show was that 59% of all Americans ages 18 to 44 read something published by a newspaper daily - though they read it second or third-hand, on Facebook, via Twitter, disembodied from its source and thus unconnected to its direct support.

This is really the only problem with newspapers that is difficult to fix. We still need them, like them, and depend upon them. They do a kind of reporting that television and even radio does not do, and magazines and blogs do not do. We recognize that they have value because we're always sharing the content wildly - posting it, pinning it, printing it, emailing it, Tweeting it. But we don't have a way that works for users to support it in any kind of actual proportion to the cost of good news production.

As noted above, it's partly a thing about settling for low margin. Newspapers used to just rake it in; generating many times the value of the paper from the profits of advertising. That's definitely gone - despite milking newspaper audiences for a high-value premium (which the papers really do offer in some markets), they aren't hitting a break-even volume of cash returned to the company. Newspapers could have dominated online content had they been thinking less regressively in the 70s and 80s - there was a lack of vision and plenty of easy money, so they missed that boat aond have been trying to hack their way into a system they opted out of helping to create ever since - and no surprise, it's a rather hostile system, since it wasn't built for them. Or for us, really.

But I also think there's the much more daunting challenge of whether anyone with any amount of money can solve the larger-scale historical problem of what is really a kind of deflation - the deflation of the value of intellectual labor performed for the public good. That's the trick.
posted by Miko at 7:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


wait, Slashdot is owned by the WaPo?

Nope, but Rob Malda left Slashdot a few years ago for something there.
posted by markr at 7:46 PM on August 5, 2013


As long as Bezos doesn't plan to switch to a less absorbent paper stock, my imaginary parakeet and my imaginary dead fish both are OK with this.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 9:17 PM on August 5, 2013


Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo- "My Reaction: Three Cheers for Jeff Bezos"
posted by Apocryphon at 9:17 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The inevitable Jeff Jarvis analysis: mixed.

He did point out one thing I hadn't previously seen... "Now mind you, Bezos also invested in Henry Blodget’s Business Insider." Jarvis kindof likes BI.com, but I consider it one of the more "link-baity" sites... HuffPo without the Celebrity Gloss, and definitely a bad influence on anything journalistic that Bezos may also be involved in.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:48 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone have a read on his politics? I'm hearing some libertarian stuff but he has also donated to Democrats and supported gay marriage so I don't really have much idea.

He's your basic liberal-unless-it-affects-my-bottom-line USian.
posted by fshgrl at 1:20 AM on August 6, 2013


I'm pretty sure the Graham family would qualify as being in the "1%."

Yeah, probably even the 0.01%, but Bezos is up in the 0.00000001% (a zero or two in that range). The Graham family's wealth comes almost entirely from their media properties; this represents only a tiny fraction of Bezos's wealth. However you slice it, it is a much more concentrated wealth.
posted by dhartung at 1:51 AM on August 6, 2013




When the president of the United States intervened in the ownership of the Washington Post.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:28 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't wait for customer reviews so that warn everyone away from spending even $0.01 with free Prime shipping for a used Richard Cohen.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:09 AM on August 6, 2013


The Washington Post Sale Further Devalues Newspapers, Say Experts:

"By Don Graham selling this, he’s really started something in terms of devaluing newspapers," Ava Seave, a consultant at Quantum Media who teaches media strategy at Columbia Business School, told TheWrap. "By selling for a very low number it definitely makes comps for other newspapers more difficult."

The Washington Post Company (WPO-NYSE) has been consistently losing money, but its newspaper division -- the part that sold to Bezos – has been a major drain, hemmoraghing tens of millions per year, including $53.7 million in 2012. Last week, the parent company reported another loss for its newspaper division in its second quarter and acknowleded that the Post continued to suffer large print circulation declines.

The New York Times, by comparison, has a $1.2 billion market cap and posted a profit during its most recent quarter. Advertising revenue continues to slide at the company, but that has been cushioned somewhat by its successful paywall strategy that has attracted 738,000 digital subscriptions across its brands.

By forgoing a public auction and tapping the investment firm Allen & Co. to quietly shop the paper to deep-pocket buyers, Washington Post CEO Don Graham may have settled for a lower price than he would have received if he'd opened up the bidding, analysts say.

“If I were a shareholder I’d be pretty annoyed,” said Seave, adding, “I would never be a shareholder.”

posted by mediareport at 8:37 AM on August 6, 2013


By forgoing a public auction and tapping the investment firm Allen & Co. to quietly shop the paper to deep-pocket buyers, Washington Post CEO Don Graham may have settled for a lower price than he would have received if he'd opened up the bidding, analysts say.

Substantially more, though? They say right there that the newspaper hemorrhages millions and has for years. And shopping it around in person means the paper ends up with whoever Don Graham thinks can best ensure its future, that's gotta be worth some money.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:49 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


M. G. Siegler: While We’re Trying To Follow His Game Of Checkers, Jeff Bezos Is Playing Chess.

Bezos is a genius. He’s flying under-the-radar until he can buy the radar. And probably the company that makes all the radars as well. With Amazon, it’s not “now or never”, it’s “next”.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:22 PM on August 6, 2013


Sooo....can we get Book World back?
posted by naoko at 12:43 PM on August 6, 2013


Bezos is the man who's employing a team to design and build a clock that will run for 10,000 years without human intervention, as a monument to the idea of long-term thinking.

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on August 6, 2013




Something tells me that the name of the new/old Post Co. will be Kaplan Inc. or something along those lines.
Kaplan Inc. already exists. I don't think TWP will take on the identity of one of its holdings, even if it's the biggest of the bunch.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:18 PM on August 6, 2013




If the new name of the old company isn't NoMoWaPoCo they're doing something wrong.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:18 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Washington Post Sale Further Devalues Newspapers, Say Experts
Meanwhile, other experts say Washington Post price was too high:
The founder of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) plunked down $250 million for the Post newspaper division, about 17 times adjusted profit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That multiple implies a valuation for the New York Times of about $4 billion -- more than double its current market value. Major metropolitan newspapers should fetch 3 or 4 times profit, said research firm Outsell Inc.

“Bezos paid a friendship premium of $200 million here,” Ken Doctor, a media analyst at Burlingame, California-based Outsell, said in a phone interview. “There are a handful of news brands in the world that will merit some kind of premium over the usual multiple, but the multiple over the multiple here seems really high.”
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:57 AM on August 7, 2013




Imagine if he can monetize the long tail of the news and keep the quality of WaPo. Then allow other companies to use the same system. Sound familiar?
posted by fluffycreature at 6:57 PM on August 7, 2013




I May Not Harm Jeff Bezos
posted by homunculus at 5:57 PM on August 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


THAT IS AWESOME
posted by JHarris at 7:56 PM on August 14, 2013


I am in awe of that short story. It deserves a wide audience.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:47 PM on August 14, 2013


Welp, that short story sure explains a lot...

(Lovely tag phrase, too: I am Jeff Bezos's robot butler. I cannot harm Jeff Bezos, or through inaction allow Jeff Bezos to come to harm. )
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:03 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's a great piece, though I didn't think it quite merited an FPP, especially with this thread still open. But if anyone disagrees and wants to post it, be my guest.
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on August 15, 2013


Former WaPo Ombudsman To Bezos: Fire Jennifer Rubin

Not because she’s conservative, but because she’s just plain bad. She doesn’t travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits," Pexton wrote. "Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.

(original article here)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


(oops I meant original Washington City Paper article here)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:10 PM on August 15, 2013




New owner's first interview.
posted by adamvasco at 9:32 AM on September 3, 2013


Post columnist and noted racist Richard Cohen hates twerking but thinks that rape is just "manhandling":
In a piece titled "Miley Cyrus, Steubenville and teen culture run amok" published this weekend, Cohen tried to tie together Miley Cyrus' recent Video Music Awards appearance with the Steubenville Rape with teen culture. It's even worse than it sounds.

After shaming Cyrus for "twerking," Cohen moves to Steubenville Rape case: "The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse." He also says the victim was "manhandled" and "sexually mistreated."
No, Richard Cohen - young women dancing is not rape culture, WaPo writers who refer to rape as "manhandling" is. http://t.co/jJFqHPrbfx
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) September 3, 2013
He concludes, we guess, that Miley Cyrus is kind of responsible for what happened in Steubenville. Or something? It's really not clear what his point is.
But let me also suggest that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them. They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women’s movement back on its heels. What is being celebrated is not sexuality but sexual exploitation, a mean casualness that deprives intimacy of all intimacy. Cyrus taught me a word. Now let me teach her one: She’s a twerk.
Fred Hiatt, the Post's editorial page editor, declined to comment on the column to DCist.

This isn't even the first horrible opinion piece about rape published by the Washington Post in recent days. Last week, the Post published an op-ed by Dupont Circle artist Betsy Karasik that Media Matters called "pro-statutory rape."
posted by zombieflanders at 10:00 AM on September 3, 2013


Man. Fuck that guy.
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


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