Jeffrey P. Bezos, the next owner of The Washington Post, says he doesn’t have all the answers for what’s ailing the newspaper industry or for the financially challenged news organization he is preparing to buy. But he says he’s eager to start asking questions and conducting experiments in the quest for a new “golden era” at The Post.
In his first interview since his $250 million purchase of The Post was announced in early August, Bezos said his basic approach to operating the business will be similar to the philosophy that has guided him in building Amazon.com from a start-up in 1995 to an Internet colossus with $61 billion in sales last year.
“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.”
Bezos, 49, spoke via phone from Seattle on Friday, four days before he was scheduled to visit The Post for the first time since the announcement of its purchase from The Washington Post Co. and the controlling Graham family. The sale, which shocked the news industry, is expected to close in October.
Bezos said his major contribution to the business will be in offering his “point of view” in discussions with the paper’s leadership about how the publication should evolve. He also said he provides “runway” — financial support over a lengthy period in which the management can experiment to find a profitable formula for 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.”
During his visit Tuesday and Wednesday, Bezos plans to meet with Post 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 Springfield, Va.