Columnist Lee Schafer provides short takes on economic incentives and choices, business strategy and performance, market moves, what business leaders are saying and doing and other topics that pique his interest.

Jeff Bezos makes his first move at Washington Post - into Twin Cities

Posted by: Lee Schafer Updated: March 24, 2014 - 5:32 PM

It did not get that much attention locally, but the Star Tribune is part of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s first real move as the principal owner of the Washington Post.

For those wondering how the Bezos intended to remake the business of selling news (and selling advertisers access to news readers’ eyeballs), the upshot is this: he plans to give content away.

The Post is offering free access to subscribers of the Star Tribune and news sites operated in other markets, including Dallas and Honolulu.

It’s not really a giveaway, of course, as Bezos did not direct Post’s management to mark a path around the Post’s subscription requirement.  It's more an exchange of value. 

Bezos hopes to latch on to the subscribers at other papers that, in a way, are offered more value by access to the Post. At the same time the Post is more highly valued as many of those subscribers click through to the Post site. 

It is significant shift in strategy for the Post, which had largely given up on the idea of having a national news website like the New York Times. Its management had tried to focus on its regional footprint in and around Washington DC and hang on to what it could of the Post’s traditional subscribers and advertisers.

The president of the Post was quoted in the Financial Times last week as reflecting on conversations with Bezos, who had been asking what the Post could do in 2014 to make sure it had a leading news website 10 or even 20 years from now.

The appeal to a partner like the Star Tribune is pretty clear, it’s just another product for paid online Star Tribune subscribers.

The Post, by the way, now charges $99 per year for unlimited access to its website, although it’s not fair to say access to the Post has the same value to readers here the Twin Cities who will get it for free.

As this is written, the second most popular piece on the Post’s website is about the chance of snow on Tuesday. That is, the chance of snow in Washington, DC. 

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