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Washington Post sale a sign respected brands will matter, even online (+video)

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"It's not that the printed paper is immediately going out of business or leaving the field. It's rather that its future resides online," he says, adding that nothing could be more appropriate than for the owner of one of the most successful online retailers to give The Post the support it needs as it struggles to find its future.

It was this struggle that led the Post’s longtime owners, the Graham family, to begin looking for a buyer after the paper’s seventh year of losing money. The losses were mounting despite the paper's efforts to implement digital strategies.

Having companies that not only understand – but have already succeeded in generating – preferred digital "product" will have a better chance in succeeding with these legacy media companies, says Derek Arnold, communication professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia.

"After all," he adds via e-mail, "the 'products' companies like the Washington Post are producing are still highly in demand: News and the immediate access to it are only getting more important in today’s society."

If nothing else, these moves underline the importance of recognizable brand names, points out Ben Bogardus, journalism professor at Quinnipiac University. "Even digital pioneers know that a good name is priceless," he adds.

But while a parade of new owners seem determined to capitalize on these legacy brands in a brave new cyberuniverse of 24/7 online and mobile communication, precisely how they are going to translate prestige into revenues is not clear at all, says Professor Bogardus.

"Nobody really knows what that [business] model is," he points out. The important advantage someone like Mr. Bezos has is the wealth to take his time. "He can afford to take the long view and experiment," Bogardus says.

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