Reuters columnist Felix Salmon fearsthe new owner of the Washington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, will fail because he’ll want to run the newspaper too efficiently.
Salmon writes that while a newspaper “can achieve better profits by cutting here and maximizing there,” a newspaper like the Post “can never achieve long-term greatness that way.”
Greatness emerges mysteriously from the slack in the system, from source lunches and newsroom cross-pollination and expensive editorial whims. It emerges, ultimately, from the ability to give people time and space and money, in the certain knowledge that most of that time and space and money will end up being wasted, and embracing that waste as a good and ultimately necessary thing.
Salmon says Bezos is not the kind of person who will “embrace waste.” His evidence is that Amazon runs distribution centres, where the workers are “expected to work as efficiently as possible.”
What an odd under-estimation of Jeff Bezos.
Bezos, as the CEO of Amazon, has shown plenty of willingness to take expensive risks that may not pay off.
First he quit his relatively lucrative job as a the youngest senior vice president at investment firm, DE Shaw to sell books online.
Then there was the Kindle.
Now Amazon is investing millions of dollars in original television series.
On a personal level, Bezos is the guy spending millions of dollars building a clock into a mountain, in order to inspire humans who will be alive 9,000 years from now.
That’s a lot of “time and space and money.”
(Also he just bought a newspaper…)
What Bezos may bring to the Post is the idea that, prior to making a huge bet on a story, there should be evidence that the story will lead to “greatness.”
Maybe Salmon worries that for Bezos, “greatness” is just lots of traffic or profits.
But as the CEO of Amazon, Bezos is famous for disregarding short-term profits in favour of building a lasting institution.
Also, there’s that clock.
Remember the clock, Felix. Remember the clock.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.