Farhad Manjoo wrote an excellent column for Slate explaining how Amazon.com CEO Jeff Blezo’s influence on e-commerce and marketing has been so innovative and how that might be relevant to the Washington Post.
Manjoo’s explains how the inexpensive information — and not necessarily the hard news — inside a newspaper played a huge role in attracting readers, and how the Internet curtailed that strategy.
For decades, newspapers made money by bundling two distinct kinds of data: low-cost information and high-cost news. The information—classifieds, stocks, sports scores, weather, entertainment listings, recipes, horoscopes, coupons, police blotters, obits—was widely popular and cheap and easy to produce.
… newspapers worked as a business, because they had a monopoly on the low-cost information. As long as there was no other place for their audience to go to for classifieds and all the rest, readers and advertisers kept paying for the ink, indirectly subsidizing the serious stuff.
Another column worth reading is by Cade Metz at Wired, about how Bezos’ Post purchase will likely tie with Amazon.
Metz also points out that high-cost news has not its own game-changing revolution the way music had via iTunes or movies via Netflix. Both iTunes and Netflix took existing products/services people already paid for and created a new model for them to receive the same but at less expense. Meanwhile, the best newspapers have come up with so far are paywalls behind their websites or mobile apps. Asides from the major publications, there’s no guarantee that model will work.
The thought of paying for online news is beyond outrageous among the young people today. You have the same problem, to a lesser extent, with music and movies, but the situation is a night and day difference because while newspapers have given their content away for free online for well over a decade, music and movies have not readily been available online for free. The workaround of downloading via BitTorrent (or previously with Napster) is illegal.
After a full day to think about it, the general consensus is that Bezos will somehow attempt to incorporate the Posts’s news content into the Amazon universe. And if Bezos is able to garner any type of success, it won’t be long before other tech giants, such as Google or Facebook, follow.