Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Amazon and the Post. Lobbying and philanthropy

Is jeff Bezos a very wealthy philanthropist like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or a cunning calculating mogul? In John Cassidy wonders with some good reasons.

It is difficult to believe that the owner of Amazon  expects a good profit from the ailing Washington Post. Its former shareholders, the Graham family were facing a quandary: reduce drastically the staff of the newsroom to stop a bleeding deficit at the cost of the newspaper quality or keep losing money indefinitely. They sold because they could not cope anymore. Certainly Jeff Bezos can afford some losses but he does not hold a magic formula to make the Post profitable, even he develops a more comprehensive digital strategy and he is fully aware of that. For him, the Post is certainly not the best investment.

However, there is probably another motive for this stunning acquisition. In spite of its falling circulation and the competition of Politico, the Post is still a powerful instrument of influence inside the Beltway. Its editorials and reportings are read carefully by the government and the Congress. It is a well known fact that the Graham family was one of the most powerful actors on the Washington scene.

And Jeff Bezos, head of one of the largest world corporations with a revenue of 60 billions dollars, needs to influence the US administration. Amazon is involved in very tricky fiscal conflicts, concerning the payment of the sales tax. Moreover, a group that size is very vulnerable to any kind of anticoncentration policy. To own the only daily in the Capital is a guarantee to be listened to carefully by the powers that be.

Still the new boss will have to manage an efficient newsroom of 600 journalists. To be credible and influential, the newspaper will have to show some independance. Another quandary for Jeff Bezos?