Skip to Content

Bezos buys the Washington Post

12 August 2013

Many observers were completely shattered this week by the completely unexpected news that Jeff Bezos had bought the Washington Post. Apparently the Graham family used an investment firm to approach six "potential suitors" amid tightest security before choosing Bezos.

The founder of Amazon has agreed to buy the title, which has been owned by four generations of the Graham family, using his personal wealth, thought to be around $22b. The price paid for the paper, $250m, is not a significant amount in relation to Bezos's wealth.

Emily Bell in the Guardian said ‘Even more interesting, perhaps, is the transmission of west coast wealth to the crisis-torn content economy of old-fashioned east coast influence factories. The cultural divide between the thought processes of the engineering-oriented Silicon Valley and the words-based elites of the East, in politics and media, is vast. The low esteem in which each holds the other is often breathtaking to observe.

It was a "no contest" contest, an unfair fight, in which the new economy of the west coast understood how to build relationships with people, sell them what they wanted, charm the stock market - and do it at a scale and speed that could not be matched by analogue businesses.'

It's going to be interesting to see whether Bezos is capable of pursuing the hands'-off approach he has said he intends. His own comment was: ‘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," he said. "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...I'm excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.'

Those in the book business will be concerned about the continuing concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands. Why should Bezos not behave in the same way as he has done with Amazon, where he is well on the way to establishing a monopoly of book sales? He already has this monopoly on online book sales, and the situation continues to be very worrying for other book retailers, who feel they are being squeezed out. His control of one of the most important newspapers in the US will only make them more anxious.