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Can Bezos Bring Back the Post’s Brand Equity?

Can Bezos Bring Back the Post’s Brand Equity?
08/20/13
by Julia Feldmeier
Ten years ago, I was a young reporter at the Washington Post, idly waiting for the elevator. A middle-aged man next to me turned and asked, “And how was your day?”

“Long,” I huffed. “Glad it’s over.”

That middle-aged man, a colleague later pointed out to me, was Don Graham—publisher of the Post and famous for his ability to remember the face of everyone in his newsroom.

I was mortified.

And yet the decade since has been a long one for the legendary Graham family and its flagship paper, the Washington Post—and now it’s over. Two weeks ago, the Grahams sold the paper to Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos for $250 million. And while the news came as a blow to the Post community, it shouldn’t have been a shock. Budget pressures have forced The Post to trim reporting staff year after year, and though still filled with talent, the newsroom is a shell of what it once was.

Predictably, there is much anxiety about what the new ownership will mean for the future of the Post. Will local coverage suffer? Will the paper retain its journalistic integrity? Will the print edition go away entirely?

These are fair concerns—but there’s also good reason to be hopeful about the new ownership. Sure, there’s the issue of resources to revive the Post’s coverage. Bezos has money, and plenty of it. But there’s also the matter of brand equity—and judging by Amazon standards, Bezos has plenty of that, too. Our BAV model shows that Relevance and Energized Differentiation are critical metrics to driving brand equity. They also have strong positive correlation with future stock returns.

Amazon is a consistent Super Leadership brand in the BAV database—it’s differentiated, relevant to a broad base of consumers, well liked and well known. When it comes to Relevance, Amazon leads in the top 3% of brands, while the Post has consistently performed within the bottom 10%. As for Energized Differentiation, Amazon is one of the strongest brands, while the Post dwells in the bottom third of the brandscape.

If Bezos can do for the Post what he did for Amazon—that is, figure out how to differentiate the paper and make it more relevant to a digital era—then there’s reason to be optimistic. More brand equity means more readers—and more advertisers. That means more money, more staff, and more of the kind of reporting that made the Post legendary.

Like every fan of the Post, I’ll miss the Graham family’s leadership. But here’s to a new day—and a long, bright future for the Post’s journalism.

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