This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration. Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
James Cramer and TheStreet.com invented the financial web. Invented, as in It wasn't there before they put it there ... TheStreet quickly became what I have called the Motown of the Financial Web. It all started with TheStreet and almost every great writer who's ever covered the market has been through there.
Just as we can look back and, for all intents and purposes, say Jeff Bezos "invented" e-commerce, we will, one day, remember his purchase of WAPO as the day Bezos reinvented the newspaper business -- and more broadly -- journalism on a grand scale.
Don Graham is no idiot. Recall that he and
Facebook(FB - Get Report) CEO Mark Zuckerberg have mentored one another. Presumably, Graham on how to be an executive and Zuckerberg on how to bring the newspaper business into the digital age. (
I wrote about their relationship nearly one year ago in an article where I also mentioned Bezos). Graham, as of now, sits on Facebook's board. The Washington Post was one of the first publications to link up socially with Facebook. And Graham also worked closely with Bezos as Amazon put newspapers on its Kindle devices.
But, to his credit, Graham clearly knew he and his family were in over their heads with the newspaper. He said as much in
WAPO's news story on the subject:
... we (want) to do more than survive. I'm not saying (Bezos buying the newspaper) guarantees success, but it gives us a greater chance of success.
This is exactly the approach
brick and mortar retail refused and, amazingly, still refuses to take as Amazon.com renders it increasingly irrelevant. Jeff Bezos will help the folks at the
Washington Post view the "newspaper" business -- and journalism -- the way brick-and-mortar retail should view "retail." The way television now views "television." These terms -- retail, newspaper, journalism, television -- mean absolutely nothing, at least from conceptual and practical standpoints. There's sentimental value and nostalgia left, but that's about it.
There's a suicidal
culture of obviousness that plagues physical retail (
and many of its partners) to this day.
Brick-and-mortar retailers say
Amazon is winning online, so we have to go there. And
everybody has a mobile strategy, so we need one as well.
That's not to say physical retail should not be online or execute mobile; however, what trend will the brick and mortar guys follow next? The store-within-a-store concept or embarrassing
Apple(AAPL - Get Report) knockoffs? To this point, that's all they've got. A whole of bunch concepts other people, particularly from tech, came up with first, implemented first and, in many cases, have come close to perfecting.
It's clear the Graham family understands this. If they're reading, they can see the nexus between my assessment of retail and the newspaper business. They came to understand that newspapers and journalism, like retail and television, cease to exist as we once knew them.
a memo to her staff, WAPO's publisher and CEO, Katharine Weymouth, said it best:
The buyer is one of America's great innovators and most respected business leaders ... He is a proven entrepreneur who, like the Graham family and this company, takes the long-term view in his investments ... Jeff knows as well as anyone the opportunities that come with revolutionary technology when we understand how to make the most of it. Under his ownership, we will be able to accelerate the pace and quality of innovation.
Such a breath of fresh air.
Weymouth must be chomping at the bit to work with Bezos and follow his lead. Every dying industry as well as those that run the real risk of dying -- newspapers, physical retail and, to a lesser extent, television -- should take a cue from the decision the Graham family made. Instead of mocking it and Tweeting cynical responses, they should admire Graham and Weymouth's abilities to swallow several pints of pride and realize that they need a person like Bezos to help them execute the visioning process.
I'm not sure exactly how Jeff Bezos will reinvent The Washington Post, but I'm certain he will transform the newspaper into something unrecognizable to itself. And while he might not invent journalism like Cramer did the Financial Web, he will have transformed an entire industry with just as profound of an impact.
Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif. Pendola is long TST stock and holds employee stock options.