Over the last forty years, we’ve watched a small handful of very large companies claim most of our media enterprises: General Electric owns NBC, Time Warner has CNN and half of CBS, Disney owns ABC, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased Twentieth Century Fox and The Wall Street Journal. Sound familiar? (Think Big Five publishers.)
Now Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has staked his claim in the media world, purchasing The Washington Post last week for $250 million, about five times more than it’s worth. It would be an understatement to say that the move makes some nervous. The Post staff was “shocked” and “somber” after receiving the news. Ken Doctor, an analyst at Outsell, says the sale “reflect[s] a broader trend of newspaper ownership returning to local investors rather than large, publicly traded enterprises.” This trend is driven mostly by economic necessity. How will it change news reporting when the paper responsible for cracking the Watergate scandal is in the hands of Bezos, whose track record pegs him as economically-driven? Will he use his influence for profit or does he have higher ideals?
There are those who are cautiously optimistic. Ann Patchett, author and bookstore owner, writes in a recent Washington Post article, “Everyone said I had to be an idiot for opening a bookstore in the age of Amazon and e-readers, but I was never deterred. I was in it for love, not logic. And since the only thing dumber than buying a bookstore is buying a newspaper, I have to imagine that Bezos must care about the fate of newspapers in general, and about the jewel that is The Post in particular. Otherwise he could have just as easily bought a football team.”
Read the entire New York Times article here.