Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2014, and has been almost entirely hands off when it comes to news coverage.
“I do not introduce myself in any way to the daily activities of the newsroom,” he told the audience at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on Thursday. “It’d be a little bit like one of your children needed to have an operation on their brain, would you go into the operating room and tell the neurosurgeon what to do?”
But he’s obviously very happy with the paper’s performance, particularly its coverage of politics in this crazy election year. The Post has had numerous scoops on Donald Trump, including how the Trump Foundation is mostly funded by people other than Trump, and publishing a video tape captured when Trump was not aware he was being audio recorded, where the presidential candidate bragged about kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women.
So how does the Post do it? Bezos credits its culture of “professional swashbuckling.”
“What makes the Post great is the traditional of investigative journalism,” he said. “The culture at the Post is very unusual because they’re kind of swashbuckling, but they’re professional swashbucklers. Without professionalism, swashbuckling just gets you killed. They have a swagger that’s very very useful.”
The question is how to turn that tradition into a sustainable business model. Bezos believes the trick is chasing a much larger audience, while expecting to make less money from each reader than newspapers traditionally have.
“What we need to do is we need to move from making a relatively large amount of money per reader on a relatively small number of readers… to a model where we make a very small amount of money per reader on a much, much larger number of readers.”
He’s not necessarily talking about micropayments per article or day, however, which he thinks consumers are not yet ready to adopt. Rather, the business model will still remain a combination of advertising and subscriptions, but with a much larger audience.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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