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The online entrepreneur and the iconic newspaper – An unlikely love story featuring Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post

It seems that the ‘death’ of print media should have been dubbed more suitably as ‘an ill-health’. It is true that since the internet came along to save the lives of many a tree, print publishing on the other hand, has suffered greatly. But print has found an unlikely saviour, or at least a monied champion, in Amazon’s own Jeff Bezos.

This may have been one of the more surprising acquisitions in a long time but Bezos’s $250 million bid for the 135-year-old newspaper is telling of the hope and viability that print media is still (at least) perceived to have. As CEO and founder of Amazon.com, Bezos knows a thing or two about a good investment. His co-sign is still a little suspicious and worrying for the many journalists who work for the paper but it is one romance that journos everywhere will be eager to watch unfold.

With Amazon already spearheading digitised literature with the Kindle series, digital magazines, as well as selling hard copies online, the newspaper industry was not one that the online giant had tackled as yet. While this could be proof that there’s still hope for traditional mediums, many fear that Bezos will simply use the power and influence of owning such an institution to his personal benefit. He did purchase the paper with his own money after all…More optimistically, this could be the first successful model that bridges the gap between digital and print, monetising print in a new way and keeping many an ailing paper alive. Consolidation of online and print in this way could reap interesting benefits.

The romance and ‘credibility’ of print is still very much a consideration. From a journalistic point of view the perception of online media is that it is an unkempt entity, unsupervised, bursting at the seams with bloggers and not subject to the same authority as print. There is also a certain amount of prestige that newspapers hold and online, although instant and affordable to run and consume, just hasn’t been received in the same way.

Here at home, print publications have shut down, been bought and exchanged hands with alarming frequency, including Exclusive Books and Van Schaik. The way we consume information has definitely changed, maybe not as much as we thought but remaining relevant and economical to distribute will breed innovations that are probably overdue considering how long newspapers have used this near-archaic  model. Niche entertainment magazines like Vice and Noisy have particularly interesting ways of dealing with new media, where their brand is built around the revenue from TV channels, affiliates, events and a record label, the mags are just part of the package, still reputable but not the main money spinner by any means. Bezos seems to be becoming a monopolist in the same way, although thankfully he reassured staff at The Washington Post, saying – “I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington DC and our nation, and the Post’s values will not change.”

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