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Jeff Bezos and Transforming the Washington Post Customer Experience

7.08.2013

Blog, Blog & News

Written by: iiGrowth

Thank you Jeff Bezos for buying the Washington Post! I believe that Jeff Bezos will now lead the transformation of the customer experience at the Washington Post. Will this save the news organization, or the news industry? Who knows, but now I know I will be there for the ride and continue to buy the products and services the Washington Post offers.  Who knows, I might even buy more, if the focus as I believe will be on the customer experience.

I have been on the borderline with respect to my desire to continue buying what the Post is selling me. However, with the purchase by Jeff Bezos I am going to stick with it as I do believe the potential is there (the Post does have some very good journalists, storytellers, and trusted voices – Thomas Boswell, John Kelly, and more).

My personal angst with the Post (news industry) has been the customer experience. I really can’t say it is very compelling for me. I think in part this is because from my vantage point as a buyer the Post does not have a clear direction.  This manifests itself with a multitude of disconnected experiences that in their totality seem like a broken lab with everything in constant turmoil. Some of the annoyances as a buyer include constant changes to layout (aspects of the online version are hard to absorb visually), mixing of opinion and fact based journalism, irritating pop-ups for online advertising, changing subscription formats, and the list is much longer.

I have been thinking about the future of journalism and newspapers for some time and even explored new disruptive business models with some friends in the news and communications industry. One insightful study I suggest reading is entitled “Be the Disrupter”, which was sponsored by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and published in November of 2012. It featured the thinking and insights of Clayton Christensen (Innovators Dilemma, 1997), and David Skok (a 2012 Nieman fellow). In the study, they dissect the news industry and offer many excellent ideas for how to innovate news gathering, news distribution, and selling the news.

I believe there are many different types of opportunities for improving the news business model, but my own main interest with the Post is having a better customer experience. I do not know Jeff Bezos, but just like many other avid readers, I am a consumer of Amazon.com services(Amazon Prime Member, which I pay for each year, but get many benefits in return in purchase discounts and shipping). I have been buying from Amazon for years.

For me, Amazon replaced the online (Borders, Barnes & Noble) and the local bookstore I used to walk into. While I still love a variety of different types of bookstores because they offer a sense of place (Politics and Prose in Washington DC, the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda or Rockville, or any one of the used books stores in the historic section of Kensington, MD) Amazon was able to come in and capture my mind-share, my time, and business because of their focus on the customer experience.

For me, the Amazon customer experience is excellent and offers value to me before I buy anything, makes the buying experience very user friendly, allows me to engage with a community if I so choose, and follows up with me after a purchase. I mostly hire Amazon to help me learn and/or be entertained by business and non-business books. They are there for me in a personalized way, even though I am aware they have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million accounts.

Recently, I wrote to Amazon about helping me speed up my purchase decision by integrating digital and print purchase information (it is available under either option, but currently not across my order types). I also inquired about deeper discounts for a 2nd purchase of the same product (i.e. if I buy one print copy – offering me a deeper discount for a digital copy). Most companies will respond with a boilerplate response. Amazon provided me with thoughtful answers to each of my questions. I understand I am one voice among millions, so taking the time to respond to me was meaningful in my relationship with them. Of course, I also hope my suggestions progress up the priority board as they adjust their service offering.

I am not a futurist, but if Jeff Bezos applies the same tenacity to his leadership with the Washington Post, as he did with Amazon, count me in! Long live the customer experience!

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3 COMMENTS

  1. iigrowth says:

    The Guardian reports that Jeff Bezos is investing in bringing new journalists to the Post’s staff. http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/jan/30/washington-post-jeff-bezos

  2. iigrowth says:

    Time Reports that Washington Post is expanding its network to local papers. http://time.com/30243/jeff-bezos-makes-his-first-major-move-at-the-washington-post/

  3. iigrowth says:

    As a follow up to our original post, Amazon (www.amazon.com) has since rolled out a program entitled, “Matchbook”. The program offers thousands of qualifying print-edition books (past, present, and future) to be purchased for the Kindle device at $2.99 or less.

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