Five reasons Jeff Bezos wants the Washington Post

Local digital content as part of $250M deal could be 'huge,' one pundit says

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One editorial executive who asked not to be named who works at one of the local newspapers Bezos is buying said the question for small business advertisers is whether they could get as much impact by posting their own fliers instead of paying for online mobile ads with a Bezos organization. He also questioned whether crowdsourced, user-generated content will be up to the standards demanded by Washington-area readers.

4. Bezos will raise his political capital in Washington.

Bezos "absolutely must be thinking that owning the Post could add to his influence in the nation's capital," Pexton said.

Aulette mentioned several topics of critical importance to Amazon.com -- and other tech companies -- that are discussed almost daily on Capitol Hill or within federal agencies. They include Internet taxation, patent reform, wireless spectrum allocation and even anti-trust litigation.

"Having influence in Washington is important to Bezos," Gottheil said. "There's the threat of anti-trust litigation from the Department of Justice. Here's Apple accused of fixing e-book pricing while Amazon wanted to sell e-books at a loss. Now, Amazon.com is left the primary distribution channel for e-books, so Amazon is facing the potential of anti-trust scrutiny."

Gold said that Bezos' primary objective with buying the Post, ahead of his digital intentions, is to "become more politically influential. [His] influence in Washington will naturally rise as a result of owning such a prestigious newspaper. Could this mean a run for office? Possibly. You have to wonder what's next for him and political office could be next."

Writer David Remnick in The New Yorker pondered Bezos' politics, calling them, "something of a puzzle" and noting Bezos has contributed to local candidates in his state of Washington and given prominently to the cause of gay marriage. Amazon also has defended selling controversial books like Mein Kampf and hasn't been willing to censor reader comments, Remnick noted.

5. Bezos is definining a new role for himself among a pantheon of tech visionaries.

Ken Doctor, an analyst of news economics, wrote in a Nieman Journalism Lab blog that Bezos is buying the Post partly out of a financial bet that it's best to buy the paper at the bottom of the market, and partly out of a sense of civic values favoring a free press.

But Bezos is also acting partly out of a strong sense of ego, Doctor said. "To place a bet in the tens of millions on a property in a distressed industry, believing you can turn around what most others failed to turn around, you better have high self-esteem," he said.

But it's also about Bezos, at age 49, finding his place in history, Gottheil added. "With the passing of Steve Jobs, the retirement of Microsoft's Bill Gates and Larry Page just emerging at Google, Jeff Bezos is the last man standing of the genius tech CEOs," Gottheil said. "Bezos plays chess, no doubt about it."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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