Why Jeff Bezos Buying the Washington Post is a Good Thing

You might have read the news this week that Amazon's Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post. You probably didn't read that in a newspaper.

Jeff Bezos has built possibly the most important company of our time. Amazon is fundamentally changing the way the world shops. And after all, shopping is the heart of business. If anyone is going to figure out how to build a thriving media company out of something like the Washington Post, it's someone like him. No disrespect to the geniuses who have been shepherding print media's graceful decline into irrelevance, but it's safe to say that they aren't the ones to figure out the new model.

This deal matters because it's an important bridge between new media and old. So far the model hasn't been very productive:

  • New media or technology disrupts an old, staid, and marginally troubled industry, sending it into a downward spiral (music, news, retail)
  • Most of the new companies have no real business models, no idea of how to build brands, and generally terrible leadership, so they go out of business or at least struggle to become relevant from an economic perspective (anything from to MySpace, and thousands in between)
  • We, the buying public, are left without any leadership, and no idea how to make the best use of the new tools available to us. So we collectively lose millions of hours of what could be productive lives, and our trust in marketing, and the companies behind it, continues to diminish.
  • The cycle continues

I'm sure you can see that this isn't good for anyone. So, let's take this opportunity to learn a few lessons from the guy who might be able to lead us to greener pastures, especially if he can figure out how to keep my hands from getting all inky.

In the back of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s audiobook Delivering Happiness (Zappos is an Amazon company, and so is Audible, where I bought the book) is a speech Jeff Bezos made to Zappos employees shortly after the purchase. He offers the following five lessons:

  • Obsess over customers. He says he doesn’t worry about competitors, even though he’s in one of the most competitive industries. Instead he worries constantly about keeping customers happy. The competition takes care of itself.
  • Invent. Bezos says you can invent your way out of any box if you believe that you can. At Rebel, we have four rules that push us in this direction:
    1. Be tenacious. Never stop finding better solutions.
    2. Ask more questions. People will often give you the answers you need if you just keep asking questions.
    3. Learn every day. Don’t wait for an annual review to find out how you’re doing. Don’t wait until the project is completed to figure out what went wrong. Take a few minutes every day to examine what is working and what isn’t and make adjustments in real time.
    4. Win as a team. Leverage the collective wisdom of other Rebels, vendors, partners, clients. And while you’re doing that, don’t just cover your own ass, but make sure you have their backs as well.
  • Invent on behalf of customers. Don’t expect them to tell you what they want. I had a client recently suggest that asking the brand’s Facebook fans “What do you want from us?” would be a good way to develop a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Customers pay you to figure it out so they don’t have to.
  • Think long term. Quick fixes probably don’t work, and too many companies are in a perpetual cycle of fixing their quick fixes. Be willing to be misunderstood and stick with what you know. That will create long term value for your customers and your brand.
  • It’s always Day 1. Don’t let the mistakes of the past become the mistakes of the future. Put another way: It ain’t where you’re from; it ain’t where you’re at. It’s where you’re going.

Monocle Magazine

Print is dead.

What that really means is that the old print magazine business is dead. You remember: Print a ton of copies and stack them high on magazine stands. Try to sell half of them (a sell-through rate of 50% was considered great) for dirt cheap (12 issues for only $10!). Fill each copy with no fewer than seven (7) subscription cards, some bound in and some loose so they would fall out onto the floor to beg the reader's attention. Oh, and don't forget the big celebrity photo on the cover, with another big celebrity in a bubble near the top. And use orange (or some other color du jour) on the cover. And the single-copy price has to end in $.95. Those are scientifically proven to increase circulation.

Yeah, that business is dead.

You know what isn't dead? Making a great product for an audience who cares and charging money for it.

The guys at Monocle get this. The British magazine blends crosses several different categories, as the site describes: "a global briefing covering international affairs, business, culture and design."

It's well written and well designed. And the content is interesting. But Monocle is much more than that. There are shops in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Hong Kong that sell exclusive products from small home furnishings to bikes and clothing. There are events available only to subscribers.

In other words, there's a complete brand experience.

The best part: a year's subscription is $117 (75 pounds). They're not begging you to pick them up with two issues FREE! They're making a good product and charging real money for it.

That may not be the future of print, but it may be the future of business.

Pearl Izumi Video

These guys get it. Not only do they make great products, but they understand there's nothing like making the kids giggle to get the cash register ringing.

Okay, this might be too edgy for some brands, but what can you do to make people laugh and maybe think you're kinda clever? Post a comment here or let us know if you need help thinking of something.

Twitter How-To

As Mashable explains in "How Twitter's New Media Blog Aims To Teach By Example," Twitter is taking a pro-active role in teaching users how to make the most out of their service.

For all the folks out there — haters and otherwise — who continue to question the validity of Twitter as a communication medium, y'all need to pay attention. isn't just a blog. It's an important step forward in the evolution of technology-based communication.

MySpace started us off on the wrong foot by building a massive audience and not knowing quite what to do with it themselves. Let's assume they did their best to learn on the fly how to turn their website into a marketing platform, and as it goes with trial and error, success was very hit or miss (with lots of emphasis on "miss"). Most importantly, in typical old-media fashion, the assistance they provided was for serious advertisers only and it involved swarms of sales support teams and conference calls to help you figure out what to do to reach their crowd.

Then Facebook came along, with its brashness and anti-corporate attitude. Kind of like, "we don't care, you figure it out." It's taken years for them to come around, and even now most of their assistance is human-based. And it's mostly around advertising programs, rather than community building.

So now here's Twitter, putting it all out there on a blog for anyone to see. Their open style is the way of the future. They're giving us tips and case studies. It's almost like they want us to be successful using their service. What a crazy concept!

I'm not arrogant enough to predict where social media is heading, and I'm not here to say it's going to be all about Twitter. But I am certain that as things continue to get more complicated, the companies who take an active role in creating win-win relationships between marketers and their audiences will have a huge advantage.

Who's Buying Online // Reading for Rebels

If you're in the business of selling stuff online, or advertising stuff online, you have to watch this video.

Here Guy Kawasaki walks four young people and Anastasia Goodstein through a series of questions about their actual online behaviors and what they think their behaviors might be, to answer the question: "Will anyone pay for anything?"

The simple answer is no, with a couple exceptions. And then Anastasia shared some study data that seems pretty disconnected from reality. Without spoiling the plot completely, these kids suggest that most of your efforts to sell and market online are probably for naught.

They also offer a little bit of insight into what they do value, which is stuff they're already into, and how to get them to pay up, which is to build something incredible (X-Box Live).

Okay, let's assume the four thieves on stay with Guy don't represent all of Gen Y. But if your job is to market to Gen Y, wouldn't you want to find out for certain just how accurate a picture they paint? Are you still relying on syndicated studies that give you generic answers, or are you really getting to know your audience for real?