Jeff Bezos has given his first interview since his $250 million acquisition of The Washington Post was announced last month. In the interview, which was given to the Post, the Amazon founder and CEO outlined the philosophy he will apply to running one of America's most prestigious newspapers.
"We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient," he said. "If you replace ‘customer' with ‘reader,' that approach, that point of view, can be successful at the Post, too."
"I'm a genetic optimist. I've been told, ‘Jeff, you're fooling yourself; the problem is unsolvable.' But I don't think so. It just takes a lot of time, patience and experimentation."
"I won't deserve credit for it."
As previously intimated, Bezos doesn't envisage himself playing an integral role in the day-to-day running of the newspaper. "If we figure out a new golden era at the Post... that will be due to the ingenuity and inventiveness and experimentation of the team at the Post," he said. "I won’t deserve credit for it." But he pledged to provide a financial "runway" so that the paper can experiment with business models, and will offer his "point of view" on high-level decisions.
"I'm skeptical of any mission that has advertisers at its centerpiece."
Bezos isn't under any illusions about the challenges facing traditional newspapers in the current market. "Even behind a paywall, websites can summarize your work and make it available for free," he says. "From a reader point of view, the reader has to ask, ‘Why should I pay you for all that journalistic effort when I can get it for free' from another site?" Despite the apprehension on paywalls, Bezos later adds that he is "skeptical of any mission that has advertisers at its centerpiece."
Bezos hasn't elaborated much on his reasons for buying the Post, but traces it to "a love affair [with] the printed word in all its forms," and calls the newspaper an "important institution." He will visit the Post headquarters today for the first time since the acquisition was announced.