A lot of people were surprised when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013.
At the time, the Post was a legacy media facing years of decline, while Bezos had no prior experience in the newspaper business.AdvertisementBut in less than three years, Bezos has completely changed the outlook of the 140-year old newspaper. Its readership has exploded and its content has become more suitable for the digital world.
Here's a look back at how Bezos revitalized the Washington Post since taking over less than three years ago:
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Bezos initially wasn't sure if he wanted buy the Post. But after a couple meetings with the former owner Don Graham, Bezos became intrigued.
“I didn’t know anything about the newspaper business…But I did know something about the internet," Bezos told Business Insider in a 2014 interview. "That, combined with the financial runway that I can provide, is the reason why I bought the Post.”
In fact, Bezos liked the opportunity so much that he didn't do any due diligence and just signed the first $250 million offer sheet that came from Graham.
Bezos isn't involved in setting the Post's editorial direction at all. But he's taken a more hands-on approach on the business and technology sides to reinvent the paper as a "media and technology company."
Under Bezos, the Post has revamped its website and mobile apps. It also created software called "Arc," which gives better analytics and marketing features for the publication.
That's helped it take a more data-driven approach. It now employs common web strategies like "A/B testing" to track how different headlines and story framings affect readership for each story. It also created a program that takes articles from other publications and asks readers which ones they'd rather read.
The Post now has a growing team of 700 staff members, including an engineering team that nearly tripled over the past two years. Bezos says the Post's engineering team rivals "any team in Silicon Valley."
It's also hired a bunch of new editors and reporters lately. It now publishes 1,200 articles a day. Its content varies from breaking news and long features to fun photo slideshows like this one.
Its content distribution strategy also involved a lot of social media, like Facebook and Twitter. It also offered discounts to Amazon Prime members, while making the Washington Post app pre-installed on Amazon's Fire tablets.
All this has translated to higher traffic. The Post surpassed the NY Times in US unique web visitors in October 2015.
Bezos continues to be very involved with the Post's operations. He holds one-hour conference calls with executives every two weeks, and brings them into Seattle twice a year for longer meetings.
Because of its affiliation with Bezos, the Post says it's now finding it a lot easier to recruit engineers. Bezos has also instilled a much stronger culture of customer obsession. Post execs often receive reader complaint emails forwarded by Bezos.
Bezos's impact on the Post is clear. He's revitalized its growth and turned the culture into a more tech-focused organization. But more than anything, Bezos brought a sense of confidence to a team that was getting hit by competition. One former managing director described Bezos' arrival as "all of a sudden Michael Jordan is coming to your team.”