Will The Formula For Amazon’s Success Carry Over To The Washington Post?

Jeff Bezos says he has no quick fixes for newspapers, but has three big ideas that have helped propel Amazon to success.

Will The Formula For Amazon’s Success Carry Over To The Washington Post?

Jeff Bezos is hoping what worked for Amazon will work for the Washington Post.


“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,” said the founder of Amazon and soon-to-be owner of the Washington Post. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”

Before Bezos’s purchase of the Washington Post from the Graham family closes in October, the newspaper profiled Bezos and his vision for news. To start with, the media boss has “no immediate fixes for newspapers in general or for The Post,” instead choosing first to meet with managers, reporters, and editors to learn about the newspaper’s operations. The Post will operate independently from Amazon, which will occupy Bezos’s day-to-day.

With $24 billion in net value based on his holdings in Amazon, Bezos is one of the world’s richest men. Though he believes the three ideas that contributed to Amazon’s success can apply to the Washington Post, Bezos emphasizes the last one: patience.

In my experience, the way invention, innovation and change happen is [through] team effort. There’s no lone genius who figures it all out and sends down the magic formula. You study, you debate, you brainstorm and the answers start to emerge. It takes time. Nothing happens quickly in this mode. You develop theories and hypotheses, but you don’t know if readers will respond. You do as many experiments as rapidly as possible. “Quickly” in my mind would be years.

Though the Post will provide his first taste of newspaper ownership, Bezos describes a love for “the printed word in all its forms,” from Amazon’s roots as an online bookstore to its publishing arm for the Kindle platform. “Great writers create an alternative world. It doesn’t matter if you enter that world” via digital or print, he said.

[Image: Flickr user Esther Vargas]

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.