Jeff Bezos and the Future of Print News

When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, he left a lot of folks scratching their heads. Why would one of the guys largely responsible for the massive changes to the print media industry invest in what his own company was helping to turn into a dinosaur? Ronn Torossian wondered too, but not with criticism. Bezos has a tendency to shock and baffle his critics, he has a long history of this, so Torossian simply waited and watched.

Now, it seems, all of us are closer to an answer. According to a recent report, Jeff Bezos is interested in turning the Washington Post into a national publication. Further, though he used his own money to buy the Post, it looks like he will be leveraging Amazon’s resources after all to help him achieve that goal.

In recent months, a select group of Post employees has been building a mobile app that will present curated selections from daily news publications in a magazine-style, mobile-friendly format. According to reports, the app will come pre-installed on the next Kindle Fire tablet, which is expected to go on sale this fall. 

Some Kindle owners will get the app for free (in the beginning). Other customers and mobile device owners will likely be able to download the app eventually, though no dates have been released. That app will come with a monthly subscription fee.

Though no one from the Post is talking on the record, information like this has a way of leaking out. Torossian believes Bezos is smart to keep the information to a trickle. That method creates curiosity and keeps that fire stoked. Reveal too much too soon and not only do you steal your own thunder, you give competitors more opportunity to create competing apps.

Those familiar with the project who are talking insist “Project Rainbow,” as it’s being called, is nothing more than an “experiment” to find ways to expand readership. Others say that connecting the digital world and print media in a new and seamless way has been Bezos’ plan all along.

That seems more likely. After all, Post subscribers have had online access to the paper’s content for some time now. That leaves industry insiders monitoring the situation closely. Is this simply one more step in the evolution of media … or is this another giant leap?

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