Does Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post Acquisition Matter for Domain Name Values?

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos knows plenty about market disruption.  Amazon shook things up, not just for the book industry but for the whole internet. That’s because Amazon is Jeff Bezos’ incarnation of the relentless pivot. Or, should we say, his first incarnation for perhaps many startups and industry comebacks?

No one was surprised that the Washington Post, a giant figurehead in the financially struggling newspaper industry, was sold. The identity of the buyer, however, astonished all: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, famed for his non-engagement with the media. Finally, one quote from James Marcus in this insightful NY Times article connected the dots: “Bezos is fascinated by broken business models. And whatever else you think of newspapers, the business model is broken.”

While Bezos, not Amazon, is personally the owner of the Post, I wonder if there was one telltale sign of his interest in the news industry: Amazon was one of seven companies to apply to acquire the .NEWS gTLD. In fact, reading Amazon’s gTLD list with 20/20 hindsight, .NEWS sticks out like a sore thumb from other more expected applications like .SHOP, .CLOUD, and .DEAL.  It would appear that Amazon is getting more and more interested in not just being a platform but also owning the content being sold on their platform or through their channels (which are many).

Bezos’ acquisition of the Washington Post wasn’t the only huge Amazon headline this summer. Amazon has one of the longest lists of applications for new gTLDs, totaling 76 applications or 4% of all requests to operate a new gTLD registry.

Amazon, and therefore Bezos by extension, understands the value of domain names. Amazon has pursued, acquired and built their businesses on premium domain names like Amazon.com & Diapers.com from day one and has continued that strategy today.  They have launched individual businesses on just a handful of their premium domains such as  Wag.com, Soap.com, YoYo.com, Casa.com, AfterSchool.com, Vine.com, BookWorm.com & Look.com.   It will be exciting to see what they do with their right of the dot gTLDs like .NEWS, .GAME and the others we already mentioned.  According to DomainTools, Amazon owns 28,827 domains.

Rest assured, Bezos will turn this failing business- and industry- on its head. After all, bookstores and newspapers have a lot in common… and the Internet radically changed them both. Bezos, a zealot for disruption, will bring tremendous change and innovation to the newspaper industry, especially one located at the heart of the American political world, Washington, D.C.  That change could change advertising behavior and trends.  It could bring more of those mainstream ad dollars onto the web and therefore increase not only revenue for domain owners, but the value of the domains they own.

Political news blogs were among the first websites to start requiring paid subscriptions from their readers.  However, politicians and political entities traditionally have shown a lack of awareness regarding domain names. Take, for example, Obama’s super savvy social media entity, Organizing For Action, which doesn’t own its own domain.  Many or most possible domain names referencing campaigns are not acquired by politicians or not purchased until well into the campaign development process.

Hilary Clinton famously sued for HilaryClinton.com – but it doesn’t even seem it was on her radar until 2005. A 2010-2012 study showed that only 22-49% of Senators or State Representatives owned either their full name in .COM or .ORG.

It seems like little by little, the political sector is catching on. We see quite a few cases where the domain name for one politician’s name or campaign slogan is purchased by the opposite political party. Hopefully soon campaigns will integrate domain name acquisitions into the primary strategy stages of campaign planning.  Maybe Bezos’ changes at the newspaper will inspire that?

Any newspaper covers the government local to its location. In this case, with the Washington Post, that means the federal government. “The Washington Post has a major political news audience,” Mr. Doctor said in the Times article, “Yet it hasn’t been able to segment that audience commercially.” Well, Amazon has a $600 million cloud contract with the CIA, so if anyone understands making money off the federal government, it’s Jeff Bezos! All joking aside, it’s likely a great time for domain owners to review any news & political domains in their portfolio. Will Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post Acquisition Make Domain Investments more mainstream? Could this acquisition bring online and offline media one step closer together? Only time will tell.

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