aNewDomain.net — Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is an expert on how to disrupt a known business. He did it to Sears — and odds are excellent that the Bezos Washington Post purchase will totally disrupt the daily newspaper biz.
“What has been happening over the last few years can’t continue to happen,” Bezos said.
“All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you’re Woolworth’s,” added Bezos, who created the world’s leading online retailer. “The number one rule has to be: Don’t be boring.”
He mentioned two pieces from this week’s paper that he found particularly compelling: an obituary of the stereotype-defying, widely-known bouncer/doorman at the popular 9:30 Club and the “9 questions about Syria” primer that ran initially online and later in print.
Bezos seemed relaxed, said several people who attended the meetings. He didn’t prepare any remarks. He gave long, thoughtful, nuanced answers to the questions, punctuated with a “dramatic, forward-leaning laugh,” as one attendee put it. Many of the people who attended the morning meeting said they were relieved and reassured by his answers. In the larger afternoon session, Bezos proved equally deft at projecting a combination of humility, self-confidence and purpose.
“When this was first announced, I got thousands of e-mails, outpourings of support and encouragement,” Bezos said later at a standing room only afternoon meeting with the entire staff, “and that is not normal. If I had purchased a snack food company I would not have gotten those e-mails. …The only reason that happens is that people care.”
He said the newspaper faced two business problems: the Rewrite Problem and the Debundling Problem.”
One thing is certain. The Washington Post is going to be the poster child of the next change-making news outlet. The Brand will stay but the delivery will change in a radical way. Hopefully the quality will stay at its present level.
Traditional newspaper owners and especially traditional family owners do not know the difference between a developer and a data analyst. The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times are trying different methods from pay-wall to subs.
But the extinction map below shows that in the USA — and globally — the fight to survive is almost hopeless.
When newspapers did begin to accept the online world, they often had a confused Not in My Neighborhood approach. In fact, The Washington Post itself created a dot.com, but located its offices across the river from its headquarters rather than start with immediate integration of online and print.
Newspapers’ misunderstanding also led them to charge for the hardcopy while giving the content away free on their websites and to Google, Yahoo and a host of other news aggregators. And it was an industry that put little or no money into technology and data-analysis training.
“Even a valuable product, however, can self-destruct from a faulty business strategy,” legendary investor Warren Buffett has said. He notes that publishers, “have offered their paper free online.”
Image credit: Wikimedia
Bezos knows how to compete with Google, Twitter and other Silicon Valley giants — companies who are actually media and news-generating sources. Even LinkedIn is making its own content offers. We in are in a new age of tech masters who claim they only make new algorithms possible, but are really into content. Quantity makes quality if you are Google news or quantity makes a lot of trash if you are Twitter. In both cases you are creating content.
But of course my taste in news is not your need for a feed of celeb updates.
Mr. Amazon knows that the newspaper industry did not succeed to stare disruption in the face. So what can Bezos do?
How will he monetize the mobility of news, with the Y gen reading their headlines only on BYOD?
Here is a list made by Nieman Harvard that reports about the need to overcome barriers that traditional owners fail at:
- Fail to spot the disruptive change early enough — Disruptive change tends to start innocently at a market’s fringes. Market leaders tend to dismiss early disruptive developments because they just don’t affect their core business.
- Fail to allocate sufficient resources towards disruptive offerings — Disruptive innovations often have lower performance and lower prices than established offerings. Companies find it hard to prioritize spending time and money on disruption when they have seemingly attractive opportunities in their core business.
- Force the disruptive initiative into the existing business model and product concept — Eastman Kodak Company spotted digital imaging in the 1970’s. It invested billions of dollars to create its first commercial camera, a $30,000 camera targeting the professional market. Only recently has it embraced simplicity and begun to experiment with new business models. Had Kodak made different choices and realized the potential to create new business models sooner, it could have owned digital imaging instead of being one of many players in space.
If the present owners will not listen to Silicon valley they will in a Darwinian process disappear. See below.
In related news, Red Socks owner John W. Henry bought The Boston Globe 70 million dollars from The New York Times. Henry bought it for seven percent of the $1.1 billion the NYT paid for it. Shows you the state the daily news, doesn’t it? Check out the newspaper extinction timeline below.
Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At aNewDomain.net, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at DavidMc@aNewDomain.net.