Jeff Bezos is Journalism's Future. Is That a Good Form of Influency?

This week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post. I wasn’t planning to comment on the deal; there’s been a tremendous amount of coverage in the press, and Influency-wise I wasn’t sure I had an angle that mattered.

Then, I saw this. It’s what passes these days for journalism at Henry Blodget‘s Business Insider. And it’s bad. Sure, it provided me a short sports-related distraction during yet another painful season for my New York Mets, but if you take the time to read that article ‘about’ the failures of the NFL’s scouting combine, you’ll see a editorialization in the last sentence that’s completely off-topic:

It’s also a healthy reminder that the fact that a player smoked weed shouldn’t make him undraftable.

To me, it looks like Business Insider’s Tony Manfred is a stoner with an ax to grind. Which is none of anyone’s business, except where weak journalistic precepts completely ruin his work. And I don’t blame young Mr. Manfred so much as I blame Henry Blodget for pretending to be running a journalistic outpost but failing to have anything resembling editorial standards in place.

Why does this matter to Jeff Bezos? What does Business Insider have to do with The Washington Post? Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos bought part of Business Insider.

I’m sure Mr. Bezos has nothing to do with running Business Insider. B.I.  is just a toy that Henry Blodget is playing with as he waits to cash out in a bigger way than he had managed before being charged with securities fraud and settling to avoid prison. But now that Jeff Bezos has decided to get into the real journalism business let’s hope he’s planning to make the kinds of changes necessary to keep his little corner of it viable.

Specifically, let’s recall WHAT Jeff Bezos has bought.

Despite being in Washington, where one might expect The Post to have become an easy target for lobbyists looking to corrupt its values to get their perspectives published, The Washington Post managed to keep the appearance of a clean, well-run journalistic endeavor for the nearly seventy years it was run by the Graham family. But it’s been missing the boat, business-and-influency-wise, for quite a while. I’ve called out The Post’s business change savvy twice, a few months ago for producing incredibly bad talking head videos, and several years back for firing bloggers whose work didn’t attract enough traffic.

I recognize the irony in my railing against the changes people like Henry Blodget and Mike Arrington have effected on the journalism landscape while simultaneously asking the journalism community why they’ve been so bad at adopting—and adapting to—change. My hope is that Jeff Bezos, one of the great entrepreneurial minds of the last several decades, will do better. Good luck, Jeff.

Tomorrow, we’ll tweak the concept a bit and talk about another part of managing Influency through journalistic (or at least content marketing) changes.

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