Facebook has not shown interest in buying The New York Times. So, why this headline? Precisely, it would not be strange that he did. Their precedents -who have them- invite us to talk about a trend rather than a series of isolated cases. If Mark Zuckerberg were interested in the US head, he would not be the first technological leader to bet on the media business.
Last September, Marc Benioff, Salesforce's chief executive, bought the magazine Time for 160 million euros. A month later, Craig Newmark, the millionaire founder of Craigslist, used a tenth of this amount to launch The Markup, which proclaims itself a non-profit means to analyze the behavior of the great technology. He also contributed more than two million to found a digital media about news in New York and donated another 17 million to the Faculty of Journalism of the University of the City of New York, who put his name in thanks.
In 2013, Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon, as well as the richest man in the world, bought the newspaper The Washington Post for 190 million euros. That same year, the founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, showed his interest in founding a non-profit medium with a similar investment. Your ad took shape under the name of First Look Media, a news organization focused on conducting independent journalism. Some of its editors left the publication shortly after accusing her of boasting of intentions that were far from materializing in practice. Three years earlier, telecommunications mogul Xavier Niel had invested a large sum of money to gain control of the French newspaper Le Monde.
We could continue to enumerate similar cases if we were not assaulted by an inevitable question: What does this trend respond to? Because, if we analyze the purchase of The Washington Post From an exclusively financial point of view, it must be recognized that the publication did not go through its best days. Bezos himself admitted then that it was not the most prosperous business of his life. The opportunity came hand in hand with the entry of technology into the changing landscape of the press, as in so many other sectors.
"I do not think that the interest in having a greater political influence was decisive in this purchase decision; could have more to do with a certain innovative vision, "says digital strategy and business development expert Pepe Cerezo. The author of Liquid media believes that the multinational can take advantage of the acquisition of the header to explore new opportunities to generate value. "Amazon Prime already integrates newspaper content and understands them as a service rather than as a product, "he explains. "The media is affected by any technological change. They are a very peculiar sector and can become the great laboratory of digital transformation. "
An opinion shared by Miquel Pellicer, communication director of the Lavinia group. "The degree of influence of Amazon in our lives has more to do with Amazon than with what is published in the Post, although it is a very relevant medium, "he says. For him, the investment makes sense if it is understood as a commitment to the future of the press in the digital environment. And the best example of this is Arc Publishing, the technological platform that the newspaper has developed and they use other means such as EL PAÍS. "Arc simplifies 20 of the 45 steps that journalists usually follow to publish a story," he explains. "Amazon is a company that is very good at taking care of the user experience and that vision brings a lot of value to the transformation of a newspaper."
The vision of the digital environment is just one of the reasons that move technological moguls to enter the industry. The investments of Benioff or Newmark, to name a few, present notable differences with that of Bezos. Cerezo believes that in the US there is a certain idealized vision of the figure of the editor and does not rule out that this phenomenon is repeated by the hand of a strong philanthropic motivation. "Socially, directing a medium is something that has a lot of value, an ego component moved by the vocation to transcend. No wonder it's attractive to the traditional American millionaire, "he argues.
On the other hand, Julia Cagé, author of the book Save the media, refuses to define the majority of these technological millionaires as philanthropists; He prefers to talk about them as the new owners of newspapers. "A large part of these magnates seems to care a lot about regulation or, more specifically, the guarantee of absence of regulation, particularly in the case of electronic commerce and the telecommunications sector," criticizes the French economist. "The acquisition of a means of communication can be for many of them a way to get access to politicians."
The acquisition of a means of communication can be a way to get access to politicians
Julia Cagé, author of the book Save the media
Cagé encompasses the category of philanthropic initiatives ProPublica, a non-profit news agency founded by billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler, but refers to the case of Bezos or Benioff as a model of sponsorship. In addition, he denies that these technological referents understand better than other shareholders what the business model of the press should look like in the future. "Making money thanks to technology in a specific sector does not make you an expert in the operation of the media industry," he says. "I do not think they are doing it worse from the knowledge point of view, but they are not doing it better either."
The economist also points out the differences in the management that these magnates make of their new companies. The founder of Amazon has invested a lot in The Washington Post, Xavier Niel has done the same in Le Monde and its templates have grown accordingly. "But Patrick Drahi –Franco-Israeli technological entrepreneur who controls various media around the world– It has halved the size of the newsrooms of the companies that it bought, which has a negative effect on the quantity and quality of the information it produces, "he laments.