In what may be the media story of the year, the Washington Post announced today that it is being sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos after being owned by the Graham family for over 80 years.
The announcement explained,
For much of the past decade … the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.
… The Washington Post Co.’s newspaper division, of which The Post newspaper is the most prominent part, has suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue over the past six years. Although the paper is one of the most popular news sources online, print circulation has dwindled, too, falling another 7 percent daily and Sundays during the first half of this year.
Ultimately, the paper’s financial challenges prompted the company’s board to consider a sale, a step once regarded as unthinkable by insiders and the Graham family itself.
Bezos, 49, is buying the paper as an individual, not through Amazon. He has never operated a newspaper. According to the announcement,
Bezos said he would maintain his home in Seattle and would delegate the paper’s daily operations to its existing management. “I have a fantastic day job that I love,” he said.
To his credit, the well-known innovator indicated that (unlike the owners of the Times-Picayune) he has his priorities straight, saying (emphasis added),
“There would be change with or without new ownership. But the key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”