Jeff Bezos’ Hands-On Role Thrusts Washington Post Into Digital Power Player

“He has really focused on the technology and customer side, which has been one of the hallmarks of Amazon,” publisher Fred Ryan says

Jeff Bezos has assumed a hands-on role as CEO of the Washington Post, making his presence felt in everything from technology upgrades to customer experience.

In a Wall Street Journal profile, Post staffers shed light on Bezos’ impact on the paper, which has broken its digital traffic records three months in a row and edged out the New York Times in November in digital unique visitors.

“He does not get involved in the journalism except to encourage us to hire the best journalists that we can,” publisher Fred Ryan said.

He has really focused on the technology and customer side, which has been one of the hallmarks of Amazon. Our engineers have an open line to him and he has made his expertise available to us anytime.”

Ryan said that Bezos has given the paper a “long runway,” allowing executives to make prudent decisions for the longterm.

Although the Amazon CEO rarely visits the Post’s offices, he holds a conference call with top managers every two weeks in which he gets updates on technology updates and measures to deal with ad blocking.

Post editor Marty Barron disputed criticism that the paper has cheapened its journalism for digital clicks under Bezos.

“The Internet is its own medium, but we approach everything as Washington Post stories. They may not always be traditional newspaper stories, but we are not living in a traditional newstelling time,” Barron said.

Bezos’ influence can be felt in the Post’s newsroom, even though he’s never there.

The Journal reported that “at the heart of the newsroom hangs a towering data analytics board detailing the patterns of Web traffic — a sight common at new digital media companies, but less so at most legacy outlets.”

Baron said analytics dashboards will also be added to reporters’ computers and those reporters will have their performance in driving traffic incorporated into their reviews.

Fittingly, one of Bezos’ sayings is plastered across a glass wall: “What is dangerous is not to evolve.”