Audit Notes: The Bezos Post BY CJR

Posted on August 11, 2013


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Jack Shafer of Reuters hits on something I’ve been thinking about recently: What newspapers can do to capitalize on their still-robust delivery networks:

Nobody knows more about deadline deliveries and distribution than Bezos’s Amazon, which has spoiled several nations with its reliable service. I can’t imagine what plans Bezos has for the print edition of the paper—if I did, I’d be worth $25.2 billion—but I’m confident that he will maximize the value of the existing Post delivery system in novel ways. It would not surprise me to see him use the Post network of trucks and carriers to enter the local delivery business as a pilot project. Obviously, he’s learned a lot from same-day delivery he could share with the paper.

Although most of us think of Amazon as a retailer, the computer sector has long regarded it as a tech company, competing with IBM, Microsoft, Google, and others as a seller of “cloud” computing power through its Amazon Web Services subsidiary. It’s also a computer devices company, via its Kindle readers. The sort of computer resources and ingenuity Bezos can bring to the Post—or more properly the—rival that of almost every other regional purveyor of news, entertainment, communications, and advertising. Any competing web property, cable systems, mobile phone system, or broadcasting operation in the Washington area should be on notice: Bezos means to use this foothold to go after the most lucrative parts of your businesses in the one of the richest corners of the country. He’ll spend you to death.


You’ve already got armies of deliverymen and women out at 4 in the morning going house to house (and store to store). What else could you have them do?

— I happened to be reading through the Washington Post’s securities filings (you know, as one does) earlier in the day and noticed that the paper had a very good quarter digitally.

Its online ads were up 15 percent from a year ago. Display ads were up 25 percent. That’s quite something for a newspaper these days. The NYT’s digital ads, for instance, were down 3 percent in the first quarter.

On top of that, print ads were down just 4 percent at the WaPo. And it’s likely that the paywall was about to start boosting circulation revenue. In other words, the Post was set up for a good year. It may have sold a bit too early.

— Forbes’s Jeff Bercovici has an interesting post noting that Bezos has already become something of a media mogul at Amazon. Here’s something I didn’t know (emphasis mine):

By selling search ads against the queries on its site, running display ads on other websites it owns including and, and serving still more ads on the screens of its tablets and e-readers, Amazon managed to take in almost $610 million in advertising revenue last year. This year, that will jump to $835 million, says eMarketer.

Or roughly eight time what the Washington Post will take in in digital ads this year.

And that growth will only accelerate as the Amazon Prime streaming-video service continues to look less like a movie rental service and more like a television network. In April, it followed Netflix and Hulu into the original-programming business, premiering a slate of comedies and children’s shows.

So far, it hasn’t shared the ambition of Google or Intel to launch a full-fledged over-the-top television offering that would enable customers to get cable-television-style packages of channels through their internet providers. But it’s arguably better positioned than anyone else to do that: Netflix, which accounts for almost one-third of the web traffic on a typical night, is able to stream all that video only by relying on Amazon’s servers.

Ryan Chittum , a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at