Bezos to Washington Post: 'Don't be boring'

Sept 4 Wed Sep 4, 2013 4:11pm EDT

Sept 4 (Reuters) - Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be owner of The Washington Post, does not plan to cut his way to profitability and says the only path to success is growth, according to an account in the Washington Post on Wednesday.

The Amazon.com chief executive is visiting the newspaper for the first time this week since he agreed to purchase the Washington Post Co newspaper unit for $250 million on Aug 5.

Bezos has offered few clues to what he has in store for the storied flagship paper famed for its coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Bezos had a series of meetings with employees, including reporters and editors.

"All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you're Woolworth's," Bezos said, according to a report in the newspaper, which has covered his visit extensively.

"The number one rule has to be: Don't Be Boring."

Bezos cited two problems that newspapers face. One is the fact that websites such as the Huffington Post can re-write an article that takes a newspaper months to complete "in 17 minutes," and what he described as a "debundling" problem, with readers going to a website for only one story - as opposed to buying an entire paper.

"We can't have people swooping in to read one article," Bezos said. "What you can't do is go for the lowest common denominator, because then what you have is mediocrity."

Over the past decade, newspapers have been saddled with numerous problems brought on by the Internet. Advertisers have fled the print product, taking with them lucrative dollars once used to staff newsrooms, which have endured numerous cuts. At the same time, online advertising is nowhere close to making up the difference of lost print ads that command much higher prices.

Bezos said he was confident that the Washington Post can transform itself, just as Amazon did when it started out as a book seller and transitioned to embrace e-books.

It is now the world's largest online retailer.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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