By Howard Polskin
Just asking: what does the impending $250 million purchase of The Washington Post by Amazon Chief Executive and founder Jeff Bezos mean for Kindle Singles?
It’s hard to tell at this early point, but it’s certainly worth contemplating.
The timing certainly seems curious coming just a week after Amazon announced the Kindle Single Interview with President Barack Obama and two weeks after its first Kindle Single Interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres. That initiative – featuring two 1000-watt newsmakers – was a trumpet blast announcing that Amazon was suddenly in the news business.
The Washington Post is already in the e-book single business with projects on Osama Bin Laden, President Obama and a compilation of Watergate-related story by Woodward and Bernstein.
It seems like the ingredients are all there for The Washington Post to emerge as a bigger player in the fledgling e-book single market under the direction of Bezos. If that happens – and it’s a big if at this point – here’s how both players could benefit.
Most obviously, this could be a new source of revenue for the struggling newspaper. Using valuable Amazon real estate like its home page, books landing page or email blasts, every e-book single released by The Washington Post could turn into an instant best-seller.
Use Washington Post reporters as interviewers for the Kindle Single Interview
This ensures a reliable stream of world-class interviews available to interview newsmakers quickly. What book editor wouldn’t want to dip into The Washington Post talent pool to use reporters for interviews? This is a huge benefit for Amazon and brings instant credibility to the Kindle Single Initiative. And slapping The Washington Post logo on Kindle Single Interviews is the type of branding that will help drive sales.
Use Washington Post reporters to generate instant e-book singles
This seems like a no-brainer. After major news events, the public’s appetite remains strong for more information. Magazines used to routinely provide this type of content. But there are fewer magazines of note these days (see Newsweek, sale) and most are rail-thin, suffering from a depletion of that critical life-giving nutrient of the media world (advertising). Kindle Singles written by Washington Post writers could fill that gap. Imagine the fascinating Kindle Single a Washington Post reporter could spin out of the Edward Snowden saga. Or the tragic forest fire in Arizona that claimed the lives of almost two dozen elite firefighters This would expose The Washington Post content and brand to a vast national and international audience (using the Amazon promotional power) without the hassle and costs of printing and shipping physical newspaper copies.
If you have doubts about this model, check out the interesting work The Guardian is producing especially the recently published Firestorm.
Have The Washington Post and Kindle Singles co-publish and co-market Kindle Singles
This also seems likes a lay-up for both Kindle Single Interviews and long-form feature stories. For interviews, a Washington Post reporter could write a story based on the Kindle Single Interview transcript. At the end of the story, there could be a link to buy the full interview. The advantage of this system is that more newsmakers will submit to the Kindle Single Interview if they know they are also getting exposure in The Washington Post.
For long-form narrative e-book singles, the challenge will be somewhat steeper. The Washington Post could run a 1,000-word excerpt and then steer readers to the longer e-book single on Amazon.
For all Kindle Singles produced under The Washington Post umbrella it’s reasonable to assume that the newspaper would use in-house ad space in both the newspaper and in digital properties to promote the titles. That’s what The New York Times does and Times e-book single regularly land on the Kindle Single best-seller lists. Surely, Bezos must have noticed.
Could there be some newsroom pushback that articles are being used to promote Kindle Singles? Possibly. But if that what it takes to help The Washington Post generate more revenue, it’s something worth considering.
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What’s important to note is that Bezos not Amazon is the buyer of The Washington Post. The above scenarios suggest that there is some open line of communication between Bezos’s private entrepreneurial ventures and Amazon. That may be totally false. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to assume that there is some dotted-line back-channeling going on. After all, somehow leveraging a connection with Amazon to improve the business prospects of a new acquisition seems like a smart thing for Bezos to do.
Especially for an acquisition that cost $250 million.
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