Jeff Bezos’ day-to-day influence as the owner of the Washington Post has been a subject of much speculation, but a deal to license its publishing software to energy giant BP might be the clearest sign yet that the Amazon CEO is infusing some of the tech giant’s core values into the newspaper.
Shortly after Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, the company began licensing its publishing software to others, first for free to college newspapers and later to larger outlets. But last week, the company landed its first non-media customer in BP, a sign that Washington Post’s Arc publishing software is becoming a major pillar of the company.
Bloomberg noted that Bezos is very involved in Arc, meeting with engineers every two weeks to refine the publishing software. With Arc, there are shades of Amazon Web Services, now the dominant player in the cloud computing market and a major driver of profits for Amazon. AWS launched in 2006, offering Amazon’s internal infrastructure to others, the same way Washington Post is now doing with Arc.
While Arc is not yet profitable, the company expects it to generate $100 million in annual revenue within three years, Shailesh Prakash, chief information officer and vice president of product at the Washington Post, told Bloomberg. The Washington Post has about 250 employees working on Arc, with a large group of engineers working out of an office in Chicago.
Arc sales tripled from 2016 to 2017 and more than doubled the following year, Bloomberg reports. Prakash said the company envisions revenue from Arc rivaling subscription and ad revenue down the line.
BP’s communications teams will use Arc’s software to publish articles and videos across 250 internal websites, newsletters and a mobile app that combined reach its 70,000 employees. BP joins more than 600 media organizations that use Arc.
Washington Post is one of several companies selling a content management platform. WordPress, whose parent company Automattic raised $300 million from Salesforce earlier this month, is perhaps the most well known. Vox Media, which owns The Verge, Recode, Eater and is acquiring New York Magazine, licenses its Chorus publishing platform to media outlets such as the sports site The Ringer.