Graham felt comfortable "going postal" by bringing Jeff Bezos into the family. He knew that what the family and the nation needed at this point in time, and for the future, was a model builder.
The future will definitely be a hybrid one, combining the best practices of traditional journalism with the best tools available to the digital world. Jeff Bezos has already changed the definition of what retail is; our definition of what constitutes news could use the same level of rethinking.
The Post remained profitable into the 21st century but a number of tidal changes gnawed at their durable competitive advantage.
It is an irony that The Washington Post, which decimated its book section presumably for purposes of cost-cutting, has now been bought by Jeffrey Bezos, the pioneer entrepreneur who might have sold more books than any person in history through the company he founded.
The newest generation of consumers has blown traditional marketing to smithereens. According to PR expert Stefan Pollack in his book Disrupted, the "iGen" generation are those born after 1994 and have never known life without computers and mobile devices.
Bracknell, currently in the third grade at Don LaFontaine Elementary, was vague about his plans for the venerable publication, noting only that he would replace the editorial page with "stuff" and immediately "increase dinosaur coverage."
If the billionaires can save newspapers by buying them and nudging them in the digital direction, more power to them. If they can write the checks that will send reporters to Damascus, Detroit and into the halls of Congress and the state legislatures, bless 'em.
What makes the move particularly disturbing is not simply that loyal, long-term staffers were abruptly stripped of their benefit package and banished to an economic wilderness, but that this sort of thing is no longer rare enough to be shocking.
The newspaper industry might have dodged the 8 ball if they had skipped the salons where they talk to each other and instead realized that they are a service industry (yes, like a lawn service or even cable news) and thus evolved to meet the needs of their customers.
Although the Internet may have destroyed the newspaper's old business model, we can use it to create a new decentralized system that may generate an even more vibrant marketplace of ideas for the twenty-first century.
As the Post changed hands to a computer king, its ink-stained wretches, past and present, shed a virtual tear. Although I never worked in its newsroom, one of those ink-stained wretches was me.
The paper is at an important crossroads. Should The Washington Post's legacy of editorial independence, investigative journalism, outstanding writing and reporting, and service to the public become the victim of "frugality" and "customer obsessions", the paper will precipitously decline.
I'm ready for folks to cry for joy that Bezos knows how to sell content. He'll know how to build pay walls, damnit! But I don't think that's his key value here. He knows how to sell and deliver unique content -- entertainment, mostly -- rather than commodity content, news.
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