David B. Grinberg
Great questions, Dave.
First, the WSJ provides an excellent analysis of the current state of print media in America. Check out the 2-minute video here. A Few points to consider:
1) The purchase of the Post should be less surprising, especially to industry followers, as the digital convergence of print media continues to spread like wildfire. In short, this is nothing new, just the latest wake up call for the public.
2) Expect to see the continued rise of digital paywalls to access content at the Post. With the decline of independent journalism, as well as print ad revenue, newspapers like the Post have little choice but to join the likes of the NYT, WSJ and others in charging subscribers for access. This trend will also continue because the number of independent media outlets — those not corporate owned — are in free fall. Thus independent news outlets will be able to charge consumers for premier journalism content unavailable elsewhere. This becomes a basic economic question of supply vs. demand.
3) An ethical dilemma and conflict of interest may arise if the “new” Bezos-owned and operated Wash Post disproportionately uses ads by, and links to, Amazon to drive reader/consumer engagement, while locking out the competition.
4) Another conflict of interest may arise if Bezos tries to combine the Wash Post and Amazon into one mega site with traffic being directed at the readers/consumers of both traditional entities to boost Amazon’s sales and revenue base — to the detriment of objective journalism.
5) Since Bezos has more money than he could probably ever spend, the question arises as to what really motivated him to purchase the Post in the first place? Perhaps he now wants a leading national editorial platform to voice his personal opinions via the Post editorial board. He already has money and fame, but he may also desire to exercise greater influence on public policy on a host of issues.
6) The main question posed — “Will more money = better journalism?” — is contingent upon whether Bezos wants to maintain the independence of the Post’s reporting and ad sales, while weighing in on issues of the day or promoting his own agenda via the editorial side. If the traditional firewall separating news and editorial is eviscerated this will not bode well for fair and objective journalism.
7) Unfortunately, recent history has shown that corporate-owned media tend to exercise undue influence on the news-editorial process — which is obviously anathema to fair and objective journalism.
In essence, until Bezos’ true intentions are revealed via a new business model, it’s anyone’s guess about what the future holds for the Post.
Thanks for considering these points.