Reporting Alex DeMetrick
WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Nothing lasts forever.
After 80 years, the family that owns the Washington Post is selling the paper to an Internet billionaire.
Alex DeMetrick reports it’s just the beginning of change.
The Washington Post is its own lead story.
The new owner of the Washington Post is Jeffrey Bezos, the billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon.com.
“He understands new mediums, new delivery systems,” said Dr. Elliot King, Loyola University Maryland Chairman of Communication.
It was on the Post’s own new delivery system the news broke. It’s a bit of irony since the Internet drove the Graham family to sell after 80 years of ownership.
“The year 2013 would be the seventh straight year of significant declines in revenue,” said Donald Graham, Washington Post CEO.
“The Post was hurting the rest of the businesses that were under the Washington Post Company. And that’s what’s really going on here,” said King.
According to King, it’s basic math.
The backbone of newspapers — the classified ad — has migrated to the Internet. Meanwhile, the sheer cost of production, coupled with shrinking subscriptions, have reduced the money needed to operate.
It forced papers like the Seattle Post Intelligencer and Christian Science Monitor to gamble on an Internet existence only, a place people are used to reading for free.
“So, the whole business has changed. How do you develop a model that transforms it from the old print legacy to a newer digital institution? That’s not going to be easy,” said Ted Venetoulis, CEO, Corridor Media Inc.
In a statement, Bezos admits as much, saying, “The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”
Making the transition may be as close at hand as a smart phone.
“With the development of apps on smart phones, people are getting used to paying for things again,” said King.
But the question is will they pay enough to keep people who find, report and publish on the other side of the screen in business?
Bezos paid $250 million of his own money to be the paper’s sole owner.
Bezos says he will not roll the paper into his online empire, but it will remain separate.
He also pledges the Post’s reputation for quality journalism will be maintained, even as he searches for ways to keep it financially viable in the future.
Newsgathering will continue with the Post’s current staff.