Jeff Bezos, the Washington Post’s future owner, says he is eager to try new things in search of an exciting future for the venerable but struggling daily.
In his first interview with the Post since the $250 million dollar acquisition was announced in August, the Amazon founder said he has no magic formula for fixing what is wrong with the news industry or the Post.
He said his approach will be similar to the one that turned Amazon from an online book store in 1995 to a retail titan.
“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, in the interview published in Tuesday’s Post.
Bezos, 49, added: “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post too.”
Bezos spoke from Seattle on Friday, four days before he was scheduled to visit The Post for the first time since the shocking announcement of the acquisition.
He is buying the paper on his own, not as part of Amazon, from The Washington Post Co. and the controlling Graham family. The sale is expected to close in October.
Bezos said his major input will be his “point of view” in discussions with the paper’s leadership about how the Post should evolve.
He also said he provides “runway” – financial support over the long term so management can experiment with new things to turn a profit in delivering the news.
“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’ll be there with advice from a distance. If we solve that problem, I won’t deserve credit for it.”
The Post said Bezos will visit on Tuesday and Wednesday and meet with publisher Katharine Weymouth and top managers of the paper’s business and editorial operations.
He will tour the newsroom in downtown Washington and the production plant in suburban Virginia.