Jim Brady on Washington Post’s sale and the future of news

August 7, 2013
Jim Brady of Digital First Media

Below is an edited excerpt of a conversation on Brady’s thoughts on the sale of The Post and what is to come for the news industry.

I was just stunned. I think I used profanity on Twitter when I first saw it. I’ve been in this business a long time I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that caught me this off guard. I was there for the Time Warner-AOL merger. Basically that was the reaction.

I think it’s fascinating, this is really the first... sort of partnership between an iconic media brand and an Internet rock star.

What is most interesting to me, [Bezos] obviously made his fortune not on something the consumer wanted that day, but what they wanted down the road.

He was smart enough to know they are going to get there, and when they get there, I want to own the market.

News organizations have been stuck serving the reader on the platform they are used to but not necessarily where they are headed.

Bezos is going to try to build a news organization that is the right one for five years out, it may be different then anything else people are doing today.

The partnership between data and news organizations is really interesting.

Most news organizations are trying to build up their development side but when the newsrooms are getting smaller.

Amazon has thousands of developers — that’s what they do.

I think it’ll be interesting to see the make-up of The Post years from now.

How do you make a local news site into more than a place you see articles? I could really see taking these sites into big community places.

With a lot more focus on tools and things that service individual consumers.

Part of what news organizations have had to be is a water cooler, telling people what is going on, holding powerful people accountable. What we don’t do today and have to be better at, is having a sort of ATM model. I don’t care about the water cooler. I want to know what my neighbor pays for his house, what serves individual needs.

We don’t really have that now.

I know people get scared when things change.

But which is scarier? Trying something new or doing what we’ve done for the last 15 years? A little too conservative and not really being able to embrace digital because money isn’t there yet?

If you want to build something the consumers want, you have to kind of get there before they want it.

Sitting here and continuing to cut the newsrooms and nail down on expenses. I can’t imagine why anything like this would be more scary than that. You are swimming for something instead of sitting there watching the water rising.

And I think this is an important point. [Bezos] is not someone who made his money in banking or in real estate or an auto dealership. This is someone who has made it by understanding consumer behavior and building products to match. That is a different kind of billionaire to be running the company.

Graphic: Washington Post’s sale and the future of news

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