Jeff Bezos' name is synonymous with the e-commerce behemoth he created, but now his influence extends far beyond Amazon. Richard Branson launched himself into space 9 days after the fellow billionaire is left for Earth.
Maybe, most recently, Bezos agreed to buy Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. In a new interview with influencers with Martin Baron, that paper's former top editor, Andy Serwer, explains how Bezos changed the fortunes of a newspaper that was struggling despite a rich history of shining a light in dark corners.
At the time, the Washington Post, though it specialized in politics coverage, existed fundamentally as a regional publication, according to Baron, author of the forthcoming book 'Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post. And local and regional players like The Post were ailing as web giants like Google eat up advertising dollars.
'Jeff came in and said that model of The Post was no longer working. All of our business pillars had collapsed, said Baron, who joined the Post in 2013 and retired in this year. 'We had suffered all the pain that the Internet had to offer, but we have failed to take advantage of that gift that the internet had to offer.
That gift, Baron said, was incremental distribution at little worldwide cost. When Baron came in, Bezos said that he helped the paper leverage its existing assets to expand its coverage and reach a global audience.
'We were based in the nation's capital, which is a good base for becoming a national and even international publication. Before Baron served as executive editor of The Boston GlobeBoston Globe, Liev Schreiber was portrayed by Baron in the film 'Spotlight.
Baron recognized that the Post had name recognition that could be leveraged both nationally and internationally, according to Bezos. That paper had also a history of investigative journalism forged at the time of Watergate, when it broke the news of an outage that would take down a president and to spur people everywhere to attach the suffix 'gate' to any scandal.
A lot of people who had read the Post before, had an impression of what The Post was and what it's mission was said Baron. And so we were in a position to capitalize. But no, we had not yet done so.
The reimagining of the Post began almost immediately after Bezos arrived. In January 2014, the Post launched 'The Morning Mix, a viral blog that filled out the internet and wrote by its Editor. It also launched an online personal finance section. The Post in turn charged frequent visitors to its website, following and following such so-called digital publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and preceding legacy upstarts like Business Insider, which erected its own paywall.
The strategy appears to be working. The Post had signed 75 million unique digital monthly digital visitors by May 2020 – more than the USD15.9 million and also a better performance than direct competitors USAToday.com and the viral news website BuzzFeed.
As it has increased its digital presence, The Post's reporting has also maintained its integrity and reputation. The paper is still nominated for the Pulitzer Prizes and in 2020 a team from The Washington Post won a Pulitzer for climate change reporting. The Post's public editor, Shayn Morrison, likely can't take all the credit for Bezos's success. Some credit must go to Bezos, whose tenure has largely coincided with Baron's time as owner of the post.
'Marty was just the right editor for the Washington Post for eight years — thank God to Donald E. Graham, a former publisher of The Post, told The New York Times earlier this year (via Twitter and Bing Web ) 'Marty is old-fashioned in the way he approaches the news. He believes in truthfulness and fairness, and completeness and accuracy and truthfulness.