Perry Glasser

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page


In Business, Economics, Finance on August 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

imagesJeff Bezos has purchased The Washington Post for a song. The value of his shares in Amazon fluctuate by that much in a day. The cost is a rounding error for him. The press is filled with pundits scratching their heads. Has Jeff Bezos developed a hobby? Does he want the political clout of Rupert Murdoch or the Koch brothers?
Bezos’s purchase is personal, not part of the juggernaut.
Some are skeptical: they should not be.
Print journalism has been in a nosedive for some time. The families of the last newspapers standing are bailing while their assets still command some value.
So is Bezos an idiot?

Maybe not. Creative destruction is how the world changes.
Amazon, in case you have not noticed, used to be the online bookstore. Barnes and Noble is beaten to its knees, while Amazon is now the retailer of choice of everything from jam to jammies. Despite Apple’s attempts to price fix, e-books are so cheap because Amazon sells them as loss leaders for its Kindles, a product initially developed as an e-reader but now a general tablet.
Now, apps are revenue streams, and news happens every day.
There is no decent national news source available online. Yahoo and Google aggregate news from other sources. The NY Times was once the newspaper of record, but “the old gray lady” still takes itself far too seriously and remains what Gore Vidal called “the graveyard of American prose.” The Time’s online subscription model fails because the people who read online content find it dull as dust. Never forget that the Pulitzer Prizes are awarded by a committee at Columbia University, making the Times the hometown favorite. The Times’s pursuit of youth have been an embarrassment. Jason Blair wrote fiction. Zachery Kouwe was a plagiarist. The Times has been laying off editorial staff.
So has the Washington Post.
Other candidates for a national news sources in print are few and far between. The L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune are owned by The Tribune Company, a company whose print media is on life-support. Gannett owns a national newspaper, but Gannett, too, is casting its print media business overboard to keep its broadcasting units afloat. Besides, USA Today is not called McNews because of its depth.
Broadcast sources are moribund. Watch TV network news and note the advertizers. Who is watching that attracts ads for medications, big honking cars, and financial services. TV news is for geriatrics. CNN, CNBC and the rest only have an audience when there is a disaster; otherwise they broadcast soporific talking heads all day long.
But where do youth go for credible online, easy access, grown-up news? There is plenty of opinion on the internet—never mind HuffPo and Slate, but any gun-nut, foodie, or fundamentalist with an iPhone can broadcast his opinion via blog at Tumblr or WordPress to that generation attached to their cellphones and tablets. But that same generation has trouble distinguishing fact from opinion. Who can blame them? Forget Twitter; it’s a Sahara of marketing.

So perhaps Bezos sees a gap in the market. Tell me, would you pay $10 per quarter for the app that brings you reliable, mixed media, the real skinny from a national perspective? Add the revenue from ads. Then add the revenue from cross-selling good and services—available with a single touch on your Kindle.
It’s intriguing.