Online traffic is up, digital innovation is encouraged, and there’s a renewed focus on the customer at the Washington Post.
Yes, Jeff Bezos is certainly making an impact on the newspaper he bought in 2013.
Even though Bezos made the $250 million acquisition separately from Amazon, he’s clearly put himself in a position to bring his expertise in online publishing and media to bear on his new investment.
Both outlets examine how involved Bezos is with the newspaper, noting that much of his impact has come on the technology and customer side of the business.
“Executives say Mr. Bezos has encouraged experimentation and building scale ahead of short-term financial gains — an approach that seems to mirror how he relentlessly built Amazon into an online retail giant,” the Journal noted.
For example, Bloomberg reported that Bezos is making the Post a more data-driven news outlet, with executives even adopting “Jeffisms” like referring to ideas that frustrate customers as “reader hostile” and reducing things like “cognitive overhead” or “friction” that could discourage readers from signing up for email newsletters.
One consultant quoted by the Wall Street Journal referred to the Post as “kind of like BuzzFeed meets Woodward and Bernstein,” noting that it is implementing digital strategies to increase its audience but also still remains committed to producing high-quality, professional journalism.
The focus on digital growth is certainly evident in the Post’s online traffic numbers. Since Bezos bought the newspaper from the Graham family, it passed the New York Times in unique traffic for the first time this past October.
Bezos, who holds one-hour conference calls every two weeks with the paper’s executives, has also helped encourage a handful of Amazon-related partnerships with newspaper, like trial subscriptions to the Washington Post’s Kindle app or subscription discounts for Amazon Prime members.
However, not everyone is happy with the new ownership. Bezos has frozen pensions for some employees and some reporters feel more pressure to write content that generates more web traffic, Bloomberg noted.
Perhaps we’ll see more technology CEOs or companies swoop up newspapers, many of which are struggling financially. It will be interesting to see if executives at Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba have a similar impact on the South China Morning Post, which it recently acquired.
“Alibaba is in an excellent position to leverage technology to create content more efficiently and expand distribution without borders,” Alibaba Vice Chairman Joe Tsai wrote in a letter to readers last week.