Trends of the Trade is a monthly column written by WWPR member Cory Churches exploring, well, trends in PR. Follow her @Coricita or reach her at Cory.Churches@gmail.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Women in Public Relations
I just received my latest Fast Company (September 2013) and the cover story is all about Jeff Bezos, or as the text reads “King Bezos”. The issue went to press before the announcement that Bezos had agreed to buy the Washington Post for $250 million, cash. This announcement was on the heels of the sale of the Boston Globe for $70 million to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Socks.
When the Boston Globe sale was announced, the scuttlebutt had more to do with the difference between the purchase price of $1.1 billion in 1993 to the sale price 20 years later of $70 million. Makes one wonder, not for the first time, about the future and value in the market place of traditional print media. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that this trend is a new one. Print journalism and traditional media outlets have been struggling to find a balance between business as usual and new ways in which consumers receive and interact with news stories.
There is still value in local news. Value investor, Warren Buffett, is purchasing newspapers across the country. He sees value in local newspapers. Forbes reports that in the past two years, Berkshire Hathaway, has acquired 28 local newspapers for $344 million. Buffett believes that there is no replacement for the delivery of local news. Global stories get barely a glance, yet a story about a local personality will be read start to finish.
Just a few days after the Boston Globe sale was announced, the Washington Post announced that Bezos had purchased the Post. The chatter this time was about how the globally renowned and respected publication, family owned since 1933 when Eugene Meyer purchased the paper at a bankruptcy auction, fit into a new information age. The purchase, to be clear, was a personal one and not part of an Amazon acquisition. That qualification does not quell the question of “what’s the plan” for the future of the Post.
So what is the plan? And what does this transition mean for traditional journalism, coverage of national and international issues, and delivery of said journalism and how we as communications professionals interact with outlets like the Post? As we all live in and around the circulation radius of the Post, I think we all have our eye on this issue, as it may influence more than just the distribution of the print edition.
The day after the announcement of the Post sale, the Diane Rehm Show addressed just that issue, The Sale of the Washington Post and the Future of Print Journalism. Her guests talked about the how the great “disrupter” Bezos might transform the media monolith with his fresh approach and see the potential of the Post with new eyes. Taking the paper private means that Bezos doesn’t have to answer to shareholders, focus primarily on revenue and profit, and can take some risks to transform the traditional media company into a forward thinking, innovative global purveyor of news and content.
As J.J. McCorvey of Fast Company says “Amazon is more than just a stellar retailer. It has reinvented, disrupted, redefined, and renovated the global marketplace. Last year, e-commerce sales around the world surpassed $1 trillion for the first time; Amazon accounted for more than 5% of that volume.” And while the Post won’t be part of Amazon, the man who’s charted the course of Amazon is at the forefront of the new era for the Post. Time will tell how this transformation will impact how we as communications, marketing, and PR professionals interact with journalists and news outlets.