Last week, Jeff Bezos paid the equivalent of milk money for the Washington Post. It was news based on journalistic history, the location of the company and brand purchased versus the relative price paid for it. But, it wasn’t the story.
Of course, “only” $250 million for a brand as recognized as the Washington Post matters. However, the sheer number of outlets available in the digital divide to comment on the sale perhaps sheds light on why the name doesn’t have as much value as it once did.
Bezos commented that within 20 years, the printed word will no longer be a part of journalism. He made the deal personally, but surely Bezos sees future potential for whatever the Kindle becomes.
The next day, Facebook discussed its news feed and how stories will be shown to you. Lots of new phrases like “Story Bumping” and “Last Actor” were introduced. Of course, users familiar with the phrase “Sponsored Post” will still find a way to “bump” their way up your news feed.
Later in the week, AOL (talk about distressed brands) announced it was raising the white flag on its Patch local news sites. So, perhaps the Bezos’ schedule to develop the digital news space is correct.
We’re told now that content is king. I’ve also seen many surveys that say while the printed word is dying as a delivery model of news, people do value the brands that deliver it. Therefore, Bezos is making a calculated risk to buy a brand as strong as the Washington Post.
The problem with digital in the newspaper business is that it has always been approached with a newspaper sensibility. If Bezos can bring a digital approach, and monetize it without pay walls which consumers have been so reticent to accept, he might just have something.
I am proud to have experience with the newspaper business both in editorial and marketing. The professional journalists I have had pleasure to work with and for are resources that need to be maintained. The Chicago Sun-Times eliminating its entire photography staff earlier this year is far more troubling and newsworthy.
My hope is that the reasonable price paid for the Washington Post will enable Bezos to, as he put it, “experiment” with the journalists and support staff needed to produce engaging content.
However, AOL partners found out that news gathering is expensive. The idea of independent local journalism is possible. But, selling a franchise to whoever watches your Power Point presentation and has a checkbook obviously didn’t work with Patch because of costs and issues with consistent credibility.
Moreover, how many of us are using Facebook and Twitter as our news channel? Certainly, just as the afternoon editorial meeting used to tell us what we would see tomorrow morning on the front page, Facebook, Google and whatever algorithm that “serves” us news and pays the bills make those judgments now.
As marketing and public relations professionals, our ability to ride the niche journalism wave, find the individual plan to get content from our clients to the places it can be seen, and figure out how to make sure it feeds the monetized bulldog will be the challenge.
So, again, the story is money, market position and content. Solve that formula…well, THAT will be news!
This just in – Glenn Kass and Catch Driver Marketing are here to help get your ideas on track. Find out more at www.catchdriver.com. Or, “Like” www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing, “Follow” www.twitter.com/CatchDriverMktg, “Watch” www.youtube.com/catchdrivermarketing or “Add” Glenn Kass to your Circles on Google Plus.