The big news this week was the curveball from Jeff Bezos and his decision to buy the Washington Post for 250 million.
A lot has been already written on this decision, including what Bezos may be thinking. Go get yourself a cup of coffee, some dark chocolate and feast on the gossip when you have some time to kill. I did that today and it was quite enjoyable. What I’d like to talk about though is what it means for education.
Tyler Cowen has predicted a while ago that the tech big four (Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook) potentially gobbling up major book publishers and he views the WAPO acquisition a step in that direction. Is it though?
WAPO has been primarily an education company for a while now, but the acquisition did not involve the education assets. I think Tyler’s general point of the tech tycoons getting into publishing is true, however. With WAPO, Jeff Bezos has a tool he can shape the national policy with. Bloomberg has Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which by the way has been producing fantastic content for a while now. Bezos now has WAPO. Whether the papers are loss leaders/customer acquisition tools for the bigger businesses, a seat at the table or a combination of both is kind of besides the point. It’s probably both, but the trend is clear. When subscription revenue suffers and all you have left is the name, there is probably a white knight out there who is willing and able to jump in.
I think the implication for education is not so much what this means for online content, e-textbooks, MOOCs etc., but more so on major publications shaping national policy on important matters such as immigration, financial markets, and innovation, which indirectly, but materially, shape the human capital. I am not sure where Jeff Bezos stands on these matters but it will certainly be interesting to see how he uses WAPO.
Here is a wild prediction: Elon Musk buys the LA Times within the next 24 months. You heard it here first.