August 6, 2013

Bezos and the WaPo paywall.

"Last March, the Washington Post put up a metered paywall, charging readers who access more than 20 articles a month," but Jeff Bezos, who just bought WaPo, has said, "On the Web, people don’t pay for news and it’s too late for that to change." So what's going to happen?

While Bezos may not interfere with editorial, it is within his role as owner to see the paper to profitability. If Bezos thinks paywalls are misguided, we may see the Washington Post drop theirs.

Bezos did not think Kindle was the salvation of papers, since “the problem is that many readers still prefer the printed version.”...

Interestingly enough, Bezos says “We [Amazon] realized that people are willing to pay for newspaper subscriptions on tablets. In the near future, every household will have multiple tablets. That’s going to be the default and will provide momentum for newspapers, too,” so we may see some creative subscription models on the Kindle or bundled with other products.
Meanwhile, over at the NYT, where they're struggling to adapt to the web, there's this huge and immediately obsolete "Fashion & Style" piece from last Sunday — "The Next Edition: Katharine Weymouth Takes Charge at the Washington Post" — which is full of fashion inanity like this:
Ms. Weymouth’s penchant for showing off her athletic figure — she arrived for a photo shoot in a crisp white sleeveless sheath and four-inch lime green Jimmy Choos — provokes titters in the newsroom. Then again, she works hard for it; [Molly Elkin, Ms. Weymouth’s best friend] said the two spend Sunday mornings doing free weights and “boy push-ups” with a personal trainer.
But has some decent foreshadowing of what was about to happen:
Quick-witted and no-nonsense, Ms. Weymouth is more like her steely grandmother than her famously demanding and mercurial mother. But since becoming publisher in February 2008, she has had a rocky ride; she has already hired her second editor, and critics lament that she is presiding over a newspaper in retreat.
The NYT article on the Bezos deal — "A Mogul Gets a Landmark in the Capital" — doesn't mention Weymouth.
Mr. Bezos has indulged his passion for space by financing the recovery from the seabed of an Apollo rocket that carried the first men to the moon. He is paying for creation of a clock buried in a mountain in West Texas that will tick once a year for the next 10,000 years. And now, Mr. Bezos — a man known for being an unsentimental businessman — has invested squarely in a sentimental business steeped in tradition....

“It’s an old boring story — rich man buys a newspaper — but in this instance it’s one of the richest men ever buying one of the most important newspapers ever, which is the one our government leaders read first thing every morning,” said Dennis Johnson, the co-founder of Melville House, a well-regarded small publisher. “This is the capper in the development of one of the most powerful vertical monopolies in our history, which is also one of the most controlling in matters of cultural concern.”


MadisonMan said...

I'm sure The Onion will be all over this. Something like this. Or did he just erroneously click the Buy it Now button on the ebay auction?

traditionalguy said...

I liked the idea that newspapers are going to go into subscription on an ipad app format. The pretty pictures should make them winners.

Anonymous said...

What is going to happen: layoff so-called journalists, hire editors and fact checkers, pays writers per article that appears in the digital WaPo, charges advertisers per click thru.

Welcome to the world of part-timers.

Steven said...

I find it . . . interesting . . . that the example they use for Bezos's interest in space is the past-oriented recovery of Apollo parts, rather than the future-oriented financing of Blue Origin.

Carl said...

I think he's right. He's anticipating the death of the PC, and the fact that the value of getting it mobile and personal -- he's good at that, and it's a major value-added aspect of -- is going to make people willing to pony up a little regular cash.

People didn't stop paying for newspapers because they cost too much (or even, pace conservatives, because they're liberal mouthpieces). They just became inconvenient sources for what could be found elsewhere more easily and quickly. And if there is one capitalist principle in making a fortune in America, it's that convenience is the road to riches -- hello FedEx, McDonald's, drive-thru banking, the cell phone! -- and its opposite is the way to bankruptcy.

He may have figured out the right model to make newspapers profitable again. At least, I sure wouldn't bet against it. Wish I could buy stock in Bezos personally, ha ha.

stlcdr said...

Will we get a system which emphasizes content over delivery?

In other words, media has, for a long time now, been about the media. Because the Media sells, because we are used to it everywhere (oh look, pretty!); content takes second place, and that content is becoming a smaller portion of - in this case - screen real estate.

Amazon is just as guilty of this. The extensive and 'screen consuming' areas which contain related, or 'you may like...' sections while the actual thing you are looking at is a smaller part of the 'selling' experience.

Amazon wants you to buy into this selling experience. Which has worked, of course. It's great when you want to buy 'stuff' (either virtual or real). But what are you 'buying' with a newspaper?

(As an aside, 'newspaper': to be relegated to ancient history along with 'cassette').