Some recent articles about the Washington Post have noted that being owned by [company]Amazon[/company] CEO Jeff Bezos hasn’t resulted in any dramatic changes to the newspaper, apart from some work on a new content-management system — but something fairly major is coming soon, according to a report at Bloomberg Businessweek. Brad Stone, a technology writer whose contacts at Amazon have proven fairly reliable in the past, says the newspaper is working on a magazine-style subscription app that will be released soon for the Kindle.
According to Stone’s article, a team within the Washington Post has been working on the app for the past several months as part of something called Project Rainbow, an effort being run by Kerry Lauerman, former editor-in-chief of Salon magazine. As the Businessweek article describes it:
A group inside the Post has been working on a new application that will offer a curated selection of news and photographs from the daily newspaper in a magazine-style, tablet-friendly format. The application will come preinstalled on Amazon’s newly updated Kindle Fire tablet, expected to be launched later this fall with the larger 8.9-inch screen.
Although it still qualifies as a rumor, this idea makes sense to me, both for the Washington Post and for Amazon. For the Post, it’s a chance to increase its reach and find new audiences that it wouldn’t have been able to find on its own, and it presumably involves minimal costs because its distribution partner is a sister company that is owned by its controlling shareholder.
Amazon and the Post could both win
For Amazon, the app provides a way to leverage the paper’s content and give Kindle Fire owners something different that comes pre-installed on their tablets — and something that costs Amazon fairly little compared to some of the other content it has to buy from major media conglomerates. As we’ve described before, Amazon sees its hardware as just a platform for the selling of content.
The idea of combining Amazon’s platform strengths with the Washington Post‘s content is so obvious that a number of observers (including me) suggested some version of this idea in the aftermath of the Bezos acquisition.
So will this idea actually work? Anyone who remembers News Corp.’s ill-fated tablet magazine The Daily — a venture that media mogul Rupert Murdoch blew more than $100 million on — might be skeptical, along with anyone who has looked at the fate of dedicated tablet magazines of any kind. The marketplace is still filled with bloated apps that consist largely of glorified PDF files that take forever to download.
That arguably gives the Washington Post a lot more latitude for success, just by making its app digitally smart and/or useful. But in the end, it doesn’t actually have to accomplish that much to be seen as a win for Amazon or for the paper itself — if it increases the Post‘s reach (either for readers or advertisers, or both) and it doesn’t cost Amazon or Bezos too much, then it is a slam-dunk. It’s not going to save the paper or dramatically affect Amazon’s bottom line, but it is still smart.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Getty Images / David Ryder