The Washington Post is one of the most recognizable newspapers in the United States. It sits in a tier alongside such legends as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. In recent years, however, the Post has fallen under fire for its suspiciously close relationship with Amazon; they are twins, conjoined at the waist by Jeff Bezos, one of the most powerful men in the world. This begs the question: When the two share such a prominent leader—one with influence in near-infinite circles—is it possible for the two circles to retain their separate interests?

 

The unlikely pair first crossed paths in 2013. The Post was struggling financially and its owners were growing more amicable to the prospect of selling. Meanwhile, at Amazon headquarters, CEO Jeff Bezos was looking for a new project. The two happened to cross paths—perhaps it was fate—and thus, for a mere $250 million of his own money, Bezos purchased the floundering paper and set about reinventing it for the modern day.

 

Bezos’ changes to the Post were numerous, yet familiar. Above all, he sought to redefine the paper as more than a newspaper. It was to be a “media and technology company.” At his discretion, the Post’s mobile presence and website were reanimated, and soon surpassed the New York Times with 76 million monthly online visitors. The strategy of success through superbly integrated customer experience isn’t new to Bezos; it’s his primary philosophy behind Amazon.

 

Such management similarities should raise a few eyebrows. There is little disagreement that Bezos must be involved in the Post’s management; he is the owner, after all. Ideally, however, limits would be placed on Bezos’s involvement to prevent it from becoming a lobbying aggregate for Amazon’s interests. However, any such limits are blurry at best, and the two companies have been growing alarmingly close.

 

In a 2017 proxy statement, Amazon disclosed that its advertising (both selling and purchasing) tied to the Washington Post was up $8.1 million from the previous year, signalling the two companies poaching each other’s userbases. This trend continues alongside Amazon’s online offerings.

 

On its website, Amazon offers a Prime-exclusive Post online deal—free for six months, then renewal at a mere 40% of the typical subscription. This is only possible because of the two companies’ partnership, and serves to drive devoted Amazon customers to an Amazon-approved news source. It would be extraordinarily easy for the two companies to build an echo-chamber in which all Amazon customers are fed appropriate information.

 

Case in point, Bezos’s Washington Post application comes preinstalled on every Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. With it, users will access the Post free for six months, then for a mere $1 during the following six months. Amazon is methodically channeling its customers toward the Washington Post, and the Post is all too happy to accept the new clientele.

 

Even though Jeff Bezos isn’t swinging through the Washington Post newsroom, editing Amazon’s purported stock price or killing potentially damaging stories, his ties—and thus Amazon’s ties—to the newspaper are still highly questionable. Through their business strategies, marketing strategies, and partnerships, the two companies have established undeniable connections, and thus have a massive conflict of interest.

 

Even though those floodgates are only just leaking, Jeff Bezos clearly holds the key to either opening, or shutting them. However, he may eventually swing them open, in accordance with his personal motto: “Be riveting, be right, and ask people to pay.