There's no shortage of speculation about why Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is buying the fabled Washington Post and six local Washington-area news affiliates for $250 million.
In a word, the main reason comes down to digital, analysts said. In two words, mobile digital, as in putting the Washington Post and an enticing variety of local news content or crowd-sourced information on the Kindle tablet and various other platforms running Kindle content. Perhaps such content would come free to subscribers or less than the paywall required for New York Times or Wall Street Journal content.
Beyond digital, there's also the inevitable fact that owning the Post will raise Bezos' already high profile in Washington, a city where important decisions about technology patents, wireless spectrum and Internet taxation are regular battles in Congress and federal agencies. Bezos might also be eyeing potential anti-trust actions by the U.S. government against Amazon.com, now that Apple has been hammered by U.S. Justice Department and 33 state attorneys general for e-book price-fixing, one analyst said.
It's hard to make big money with digital editions of daily newspapers, but pundits and analysts think Bezos -- seen as an online genius by many -- has the insight and dedication from his experience selling books and other products on the Web to make money with the newspaper.
While the purchase is separate from Bezos' role at Amazon.com, there's little doubt that his insights about digital content will affect decisions regarding the Post, and owning the newspaper could influence moves by Amazon.com -- especially with the Kindle and Kindle content, which can run on other platforms than Kindle.
Five analysts weighed in on what Bezos may be up to:
1: Bezos wants access to the Post's content for digital publishing on mobile devices, not just Kindle.
"Buying the Post is for integration of its unique content into the Amazon ecosystem, although it will increase his influence in Washington, too," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "But the main thing Bezos cares about [it] is the written word.... Putting that content on the Kindle is not about the Kindle device, but about the Kindle client software used on many other devices. Amazon will keep the hardware alive because it works for them, but they are investing in the Kindle client as a primary channel for content."
Patrick Pexton, a former ombudsman for the Washington Post, predicted Bezos "will definitely want to experiment with the Post's presence on all digital devices." The paper's content already runs on Kindle, iPad and other tablets and mobile phones, but "some of its apps [on those devices] are pretty good, and some less good."
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, also argued that Bezos could be more interested in the content of the Post and its rich troves of archives, meaning that the printed paper itself could be shut down. The archives alone would include award-winning investigations about Watergate and other big D.C. stories from the past.
"Bezos could shut down the presses and still make money using the content creators, including reporters and editors," to create new content for use on mobile and other digital platforms, he said. "Creating valuable content is not as easy as it seems in today's blogosphere."
2. Free or low-cost Post content on the Kindle would undercut higher-priced news paywalls charged by other newspapers.
Ken Auletta, a book author and New Yorker writer on media, said on CBS This Morning that Bezos could be contemplating putting the Washington Post's content on the Kindle for free. Auletta noted that while Bezos would be taking the Post private, he still would be in a position to influence content at Amazon.com -- and that influence could well be with the Post's international and national news, and more.