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Washington Post sold to Jeff Bezos: End of old media or new hope?

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Opinions are mixed.

“Bezos re-Kindles hope at WaPo,” wrote Politico.

The Atlantic called the sale, “A moment that will define an era’s upheaval in journalism.”

In the hours after the announcement, shares of the Washington Post Co. climbed to $599.85, their highest level in almost five years, according to Reuters. A glimmer of hope.

What seems to be consensus across these and other diagnoses, and is reflected in the market’s response, is that the paper, as it was, would not have lasted. It was hemorrhaging cash and losing readers. Growth in advertising revenue proved elusive. And while the Grahams had over the years sought to boost the company’s portfolio by acquiring other money makers – notably the test preparation outfit Kaplan Inc. – it wasn’t enough to offset red ink since 2008 from the newspaper division.

Physically, the paper was downsized. Domestic bureaus were shuttered. And a refocus on online traffic became paramount. No shock here, the whole industry is facing the same reality, and, though far from extinct, enterprise stories, elegant long-form works, and overseas reporting have begun to be eclipsed by blogging and vlogging and the quest for more and more content at a lower cost.

Still, of course, the paper that took down a president broke big news stories – recently making its mark in reports on the government’s domestic surveillance programs – and won prizes. All while it has faced challenges from newer, faster outlets, such as Washington rival Politico, to stay ahead on the city’s political news stories.

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