Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. But when the paper’s owner first approached Bezos looking for a buyer, he wasn’t sure he’d be the rigth owner.
It was only after he spoke with the owner at the time, Don Graham, that he realised he might have a lot to bring to the table.
“My biggest question quickly became to Don: ‘Are you sure I can help? Why me? I don’t know anything about the news business,'” Bezos said in an interview with the Washington Post’s executive editor Martin Baron on Wednesday.
“And Don said, ‘Look, we don’t need anybody that knows about the news business. We got lots of people here who know about the news business. We need somebody who knows about the internet,'” Bezos added.
Soon, Bezos learned how the internet was fundamentally reshaping the news industry. For traditional news businesses, the internet has been a disaster, but for a lot of other media companies, it’s been a “huge gift,” he says.
“[The internet] does bring one huge gift and you have to maximise your usage of that new gift, which is that it provides almost free global distribution. So that’s how we can get hundreds of millions of readers and make very little money per reader, and have an amazing institution,” Bezos said. “And I’m happy to fund that until we get there.”
Because of this change, the revenue structure of the Washington Post has changed as well, Bezos says. It’s all about reaching scale now.
“We’ve historically made a relatively large amount of money per reader, on a relatively small number of readers. And we need instead to make a relatively small amount of money per reader on a much larger number of readers,” Bezos said.
Just two years after the Post, Bezos is already showing results. The Post has surpassed the NY Times in US unique visitors per month last year, and is continuing to add engineering talent to turn it into a “media and technology company.”
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.