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Nov. 24, 2015, 11:13 a.m.
Business Models

Jeff Bezos says The Washington Post’s goal is to become the “new paper of record”

“We’re doing it now with more resources and we have a lot of patience for that job.”

Jeff Bezos did something with a rocket Tuesday morning, tweeted for the first time ever, and, more importantly for our purposes, spoke briefly on CBS This Morning about his vision for The Washington Post, which he bought in 2013.

The Washington Post part starts at around 4:30, but here’s a transcript:

Charlie Rose: You now own The Washington Post. Can you tell us where you’re taking it and what’s happening there?

Jeff Bezos: Well, you know, what we’re doing with the Post is we’re working on becoming the new paper of record, Charlie. We’ve always been a local paper, and just this month The Washington Post passed The New York Times in terms of number of viewers online. This is a gigantic accomplishment for the Post team. We’re just gonna keep after that. The reason that that’s working is because we have such a talented team at the Post. It’s all about quality journalism. And even here in the Internet age, in the 21st century, people really care about quality journalism.

Rose: So define what you think The Washington Post is today.

Bezos: Well, The Washington Post today is a bright light that helps shine light on all of our institutions in this country, and the political process. We know that some of the things that have happened in the past, we wish we had known more about our political leaders and our other powerful institutions in this country, and that’s been the role of the Post for a long time. And we’re just gonna keep doing that. We’re doing it now with more resources and we have a lot of patience for that job. We’re just gonna keep working at it and make sure that that institution stays strong, so that it can shine a light on all of these important players especially in Washington.

Norah O’Donnell: I can’t wait to see you and Charlie in space, Jeff.

Those who’ve been listening to Bezos’s Amazon talking points over the years will note that that “a lot of patience for that job” sounds familiar. He’s long stressed the importance of being patient when it comes to Amazon’s retail business. “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful,” he told the Post in 2013. “Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he said. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.” (A Post exec I spoke with the other day casually referred to readers as “customers.”)

Post’s mention of surpassing The New York Times in viewers online refers to the fact that, in October, the Post had 66.9 million unique visitors, according to comScore, compared to the Times’ 65.8 million. Post employees have been quick to jump on the stat, while others (especially Times staffers) have pointed out the limits of only looking at uniques. A bit of Twitter Tuesday morning:

It’s worth noting that the free/paid divide isn’t anywhere as clean as these tweets make it seem. The Post does, in fact, have a paywall online, though it’s a more generous one than the Times’. The Post has also been more aggressive about discounting than its peers. (The Post doesn’t report its digital subscription numbers publicly.) And it’s not true to say the Post “now comes automatically to millions with a [Amazon] Prime account”; Prime members can get six months of the Post online for free, but (a) members have to specifically sign up for it, and (b) they’ll have to pay after the free trial is up. Finally, remember the vast majority of those 65.8 million Times readers aren’t paying anything either; the Times has about 1 million digital subscribers, plus print subscribers who get digital free.

POSTED     Nov. 24, 2015, 11:13 a.m.
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