1. With new app, Bezos makes his mark on Washington Post

With new app, Bezos makes his mark on Washington Post

It is the first formal collaboration between the two companies since Mr Bezos bought The Post for $250 million last year.

By: | Washington | Published: November 21, 2014 12:01 AM

In recent months, The Washington Post has been worried about reducing cognitive overhead. The phrase, borrowed from its new owner, the billionaire Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos, refers to the number of decisions or actions readers must make before getting what they want.

The principle was a driving force behind Amazon’s one-click buying system. And it is one of the guiding ideas for a new app that will deliver the Washington Post to some Amazon Kindle tablet owners for free. It is the first formal collaboration between the two companies since Mr Bezos bought The Post for $250 million last year.

The new app, with pre-loaded stories, pictures and even advertisements, was designed in close collaboration with Mr Bezos, said Shailesh Prakash, The Post’s chief technology officer. “We talked to him constantly,” Mr Prakesh said, describing feedback Mr Bezos gave to developers. “He’s our most active beta tester.”

The app, which was designed to reduce the noise of the web to something as streamlined as a print publication, will be automatically added to certain Kindle Fire tablets in a software update. It will feature two editions each day, at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., times the company believes it will reach the most readers.

The app will be free for Kindle Fire owners for six months, and will then cost a dollar a month for the next six months. A version of the app will be available for Android and iOS operating systems next year, at $3.99 a month.

Russell Grandinetti, a senior vice president at Amazon who oversees the Kindle, declined to specify the number of Kindle Fire users who would receive the new app, but said that it was in the millions.

Post executives and technologists said in interviews on Wednesday that the app represents the melding of the company’s culture with that of its new owner, Mr Bezos. His ideas and preoccupations have helped quietly shape the newspaper, they said, and  empowered its technologists.

“Through a lot of conversations with Jeff, we’ve sort of absorbed some of this stuff by osmosis,” said Martin Baron, the paper’s editor. “We now have an opportunity to ask him how things have worked at Amazon, for example. And he has a consumer obsession.”

They added that Mr Bezos had made it clear, through meetings with executives and through feedback on ideas and proposals, that The Post’s broad strategy should shift toward growing its national and international audience — in direct contrast to its previous mission of narrowing its focus to local news.

Though executives at the company emphasized that they still valued coverage of local events, Mr Baron said that many of his recent hires had been national reporters, with the Kindle app in mind. A team of 16 people will rewrite headlines and stories to make them punchier, with the intention of drawing a broader audience.

The Post’s ties to Amazon and Mr Bezos are evident in its offices. Kindle Fire tablets sit alongside iPads.

New products are complete, Mr. Bezos has told Post staff members, when they start loving them. Executives are guided by Mr Bezos to “focus on what you can control.”

The Amazon chief’s preference for a culture of secrecy meant that the new app was carefully guarded, with, work done under the internal code name Project Rainbow.

“The first question he asked was ‘What will it take for us to be successful 20 years from now?’ ” Steve Hills, The Washington Post’s president and general manager, said in recounting his first meeting with Amazon chief Mr. Bezos.

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