Re-Engineering The News Business


Though he has no journalism heritage, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos surely has what it takes to make a small fortune within the newspaper commercial enterprise these days. What it takes is a big fortune.

What stays visible is whether an interloper, who isn’t certain by way of newsroom lifestyle and publishing custom, will do better than the main households of American newspapers. I think he has a respectable shot.

The greatest authority on newspaper fortunes massive and small is The New York Times, which announced last week that it sells the Boston Globe for $70 million. The consumer is John Henry, the foremost proprietor of the Boston Red Sox. The Times stated that the sale would allow it to “awareness more on its middle emblem.” (1) The New York Post, owned with the aid of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (which also owns The Times’ arch-rival, The Wall Street Journal), gleefully talked about in huge, bold kind that the deal represents the destruction of ninety-three percent of the $1.1 billion that The Times’ controlling Sulzberger circle of relatives paid for the Boston paper a long time in the past. That estimate can be charitable because The Times stays on the hook for some of the Boston paper’s pension duties.


Just days after The Times’ Boston massacre, Bezos and The Washington Post announced the day before today that the previous is shopping for the capital’s dominant newspaper (which comes with a potpourri of additional minor titles) for $250 million.


At first blush, Henry is a mile extra logical newspaper consumer than Bezos. Henry’s Red Sox needs to keep putting fannies in the ones expensively renovated yet oh-so-nostalgia-crammed Fenway Park seats. To do this, he wishes his group’s fortunes to feature prominently in nearby media, especially The Globe, its popular Boston.Com website, and the New England Sports Network cable channel (which Henry additionally owns).

The Times was fruitlessly buying The Globe for a while and may, in the long run, have determined to fold the operation if it hadn’t located a customer. Though Henry appears out of community spirit, his purchase also makes a strategic feel in the first-class baseball lifestyle. Once upon a time, beer magnates sold baseball clubs because the ballpark supplied a convenient region to promote extra brewskies.

Henry might also most effectively belatedly find out that owning a prime metropolitan daily gives him a continually understaffed and underfunded newsroom, a steeply-priced and outmoded printing and circulate gadget, and a shrinking base of advertisers who have more locations to spend their bucks and fewer reasons to spend them on nearby media. If The New York Times Company couldn’t get The Globe to stand on its own, how lengthy will Henry’s patience, not to say his finances, be ultimate?

Bezos is nearly the other of Henry in this context. With a non-public net really worth estimated at north of $23 billion, he can sustain The Post practically for all time if he wishes. But Bezos has no nearby ties to the District of Columbia; he intends to hold dwelling in Seattle at the same time as going for walks the Washington paper via employed arms as an absentee owner. For Bezos, information is any other product to deliver, now not plenty one of a kind than the e-books, toys, and appliances he sells via Amazon. (To be clear, Bezos is buying The Post for my part, not via his company.)

As strange as the transaction might seem at the start glance, Bezos may be joining a present trend and main it forward unexpectedly. The huge news publishers of the destiny aren’t probably to be the households that have owned principal American papers for generations; one after the other, they’re promoting out. The massive information sources of the next day seem, in all likelihood, to be the human beings and businesses who manipulate distribution across multiple media platforms.

We don’t think about Google as an information source; we think about it as an aggregator of other human beings’ content; that’s what it commonly has been up to this point. But I think Bezos will see Google as considered one of his maximum ambitious competitors in the long term if he isn’t already questioning along the one’s strains.

Apple, too, may become a big journalism distributor. Yahoo and Microsoft might be gamers if they could get their acts together. Facebook and Twitter have the ability. These names might not make us think about information right now; however, media sites are looking to collect the biggest target audience viable and promote that audience to advertisers – exactly what newspapers have always been approximate. Newspapers did no longer begin carrying comics, horoscopes, and Dear Abby to hold the public informed.

Distributors are gambling a growing role in setting news on our displays, too. Comcast owns NBC. Various cable operators run neighborhood news channels; Time Warner’s NY1 is an excellent-of-breed example. (Michael Bloomberg also is aware of something approximately making a no-longer-so-small fortune in the contemporary media commercial enterprise.) Bloomberg is building mass target audience broadcast and online shops, even as it makes its real money promoting specialized financial records.

We have not to write off the Murdoch and Sulzberger empires simply yet. They are doing a little of the pleasant paintings inside the newspaper business of converting their target market from lifeless-tree to electronic transport. Yet it may take someone like Bezos, who isn’t always a fabricated from the traditional journalism model and therefore isn’t trapped with the aid of its boxed-in questioning, to discern out a manner to cost-efficiently collect, edit and deliver news content that clients will want to buy within the destiny and the way to attract the ones clients that advertisers will need to attain.


Instead of seeing The Washington Post as an unmarried, all-encompassing name, Bezos might turn it into an umbrella logo, selling country-wide political news and local style content material to special audiences, at unique fees, to satisfy one of a kind needs. Instead of a large, everlasting newsroom body of workers, he may maintain handiest a small, middle institution of editors to run a big herd of unbiased expert newshounds. Instead of working for one information employer, most newshounds and editors within the destiny would possibly paintings with a fixed of nicely-mounted titles, constructing non-public manufacturers even as covering sure fields on behalf of those institutional names.

The Graham own family, which had owned The Post via four generations and brought it to Countrywide prominence, turned into forthright in admitting that it had no answers to the questions about journalism’s destiny. Bezos changed into just as blunt.

“We will need to invent, which means that we will want to experiment,” he stated in a letter to The Post’s team of workers. “Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, nearby leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, corporations, charities, governors, sports – and operating backward from there.” (2)