Despite confessing that "there is no map," I suspect Jeff Bezos has a pretty good idea of where he wants to take the newspaper. Over the past several weeks, in fact, he has said quite a lot about his vision for the newspaper. Here are nine of the most insightful things Jeff Bezos has said about The Washington Post in recent weeks.
1. "The one thing I'm already starting to form a conviction on is that the center of our universe should be the reader."
2. "The product of The Post is still great. The piece that's missing is that it's a challenged business. No business can continue to shrink. That can only go on for so long before irrelevancy sets in."
3. "If your customer base ages along with you, then you're Woolworths. The ultimate story there is extinction, because all your customers pass away. I guess we have to write obituaries for them, but that's not what we want to do. We need young customers."
4. "The death knell for any enterprise is to glorify the past -- no matter how good it was. Especially for an institution like The Washington Post that has such a hallowed past, it would be very tempting to live in that frame of mind..."
5. "My point of view is pretty simple, that we can't be in survival mode. We have to be in growth mode. We have to be reader-focused, not self-focused or advertiser-focused, and that we need to also figure out how to use the gifts that the Internet gives us, at the same time that we are acknowledging that there are many things the Internet has disrupted in this business."
6. "I'm less optimistic about the web -- the desktop web -- than I am about tablets, but I'm really optimistic about tablets, that we can figure out that bundle. I'm also very optimistic that the reach of the Internet will give us a bigger paying audience. I'm not too worried about that."
7. "I don't self-identify with a political party. I am very issues-focused. I do have things I care about, and some of those things are public, like gay marriage."
8. "The Post is famous for its investigative journalism. It pours energy and investment and sweat and dollars into uncovering important stories. And then a bunch of websites summarize that [work] in about four minutes and readers can access that news for free. One question is, how do you make a living in that kind of environment? If you can't, it's difficult to put the right resources behind it. ... Even behind a paywall, websites can summarize your work and make it available for free. From a reader point of view, the reader has to ask, 'Why should I pay you for all that journalistic effort when I can get it for free from another site?' "
9. "It would be doing a disservice to this organization for my motivations to be just a business curiosity. It's much, much deeper than that. Now, I never worked on the school newspaper. There are no journalists in my family. I have a lot of experience with journalists, but always as a subject. But I really do believe ... This may embarrass Bob [Woodward] a little bit, but I watched the Watergate hearings on my elbow, on the living room floor, next to my grandfather -- who didn't turn them off. These things make an impression."
John Reeves owns shares of Amazon.com. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.