Ever since Amazon (AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos acquired the Washington Post from the Graham family for $250 million in 2013, media watchers have been waiting for signs of synergies between the massive online retailer and the struggling newspaper. There have been a few moves here and there, but Wednesday saw the launch of one of the biggest yet: the Post announced that Amazon Prime members will get the paper for free for six months, as well as a reduced rate on a full subscription.
According to a release from the company, Prime members will get a six-month free trial of the newspaper, and following that they can sign up for just $3.99 a month to get access to the paper’s national and international news. A regular subscription normally costs $9.99 a month.
Prime is Amazon’s all-in-one service, which costs $99 a year and includes things like free shipping on items purchased from the retailer, discounts on music and books, access to special deals on TV shows and movies, free unlimited photo storage, and so on. According to some recent estimates, Amazon has about 40 million Prime members in the U.S. and as many as 80 million worldwide.
In the short term, what the Prime deal means is that the Washington Post gets access to about 40 million new potential subscribers. Much like the subscription deal the newspaper announced last year, in which it partnered with dozens of other newspapers across the country to give subscribers access to the Post for free, it is a low-cost strategy for boosting the readership and reach of the paper.
What’s most interesting about the Prime move, however—and others that Bezos has made since he became the Post‘s owner—is that it shows the Post is focused on boosting its national and international readership. In the past, as Josh Benton notes at the Nieman Journalism Lab, the newspaper was focused primarily on being a great local paper for Washington and the surrounding area, and less so on national issues. But Bezos has changed that, as he mentioned during a recent interview:
“The big change we’re making at the Post is, the Post was always, even though it had a national and global reputation, the product was a local product. And that was by design, and I think for the time, it was a very good strategy, and the Post as a business was super successful for decades. But that is what we’re changing.”
This puts the Post and the New York Times on a collision course unlike anything either paper has seen in the recent past. As media analyst Ken Doctor pointed out in a recent column, the Post has made some major strides when it comes to readership and traffic, to the point where it has become a much more significant competitor for the NYT.
With the Prime deal, millions of people will now get access to the Post‘s journalism for free for six months and then for just $48 a year after that, a deal that the paper said is good for a lifetime. By comparison, getting access to the New York Times on the web and mobile devices costs more than $35 a month, or about $450 a year. It seems the newspaper business is finally getting a taste of what Amazon has done to the book industry. Good for readers—not so good for competitors.