The recent sale of one of the world’s great newspapers, the Washington Post, to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has raised eyebrows across the media industry. Given how Bezos revolutionised the retail business, many commentators are speculating that he may just do the same for the ailing newspaper sector.
In a recent article for German newspaper Der Spiegel, Jeff Jarvis, one of my favourite writers on all things media, is optimistic that Bezos can bring the best of the internet – efficient business models that focus on individual relationships with their customers and users – to the Post.
The article addresses the bigger picture of the future of newspapers, arguing that while the internet continues to change our perception of the media and what constitutes news in the Twitter age and the relentless flow of information, it is also an opportunity for news organisations and journalists to “reimagine” themselves.
He writes: “There is still a need for journalists, perhaps greater than ever. Journalists must add value to that flow of information, confirming facts, debunking rumours, finding sources, adding context and explanation, and, most importantly, asking the questions and getting the answers that are not in the flow — that is: reporting.”
Meanwhile, in an open letter to Bezos, former Post staffer Karen Swisher outlines the mistakes newspapers like the Post made in the early days of the Internet and offers suggestions on how they can still remain relevant (and maybe even profitable) by making digital delivery the focus of the organisation, ultimately at the expense of print.
“Fusing the old-media storytelling and news-integrity values … is critical,” she writes.
“In other words, make it clear that it is possible to do great journalism in an Internet way — even more possible because you’re freer and, most of all, readers want to read it that way. That entails inspiring the staffers of the newspaper to create content that is — as it has been — accurate, ethically sound, of high quality, but also much more compelling, and delivered in a way that modern customers want to consume it. Formulate those big stories primarily on the Web, and allow a conversation with readers to bubble up from there.”