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Will new Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos upend newspaper business?

August 6, 2013 founder Jeffrey P. Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post promises not just an ownership change for the 135-year-old institution, but potentially painful adjustments for the entire newspaper industry.

As the Post reports, Bezos is known for disrupting traditional businesses and for being obsessed with the customer’s personalized experience. Bookstores, music stores and even big-box electronics chains have shuttered under the growth of and other online retail.

If Amazon-style customer targeting were used at The Washington Post, then the news organization might find it unpalatable. But with more data about the paper’s readers and the specific kinds of stories and products they’re interested in, advertisers could better target consumers and would pay a premium for the opportunity, says Tim Bajarin, head of the technology-research and consulting firm Creative Strategies. By adopting technology that Amazon has used to build its success, Bezos could upend assumptions about how the paper delivers journalism, generates ad revenue and interacts with readers.

Bezos says that remaking the Post is “unchartered terrain” that will “require experimentation.” But he should be careful about reinventing the paper’s practices, media analyst Ken Doctor says. Would technology such as data mining and consumer targeting “tread on the public’s belief that the editors are simply trying to get them accurate, true stories?”  — Greg Beaubien


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