Jeff Bezos, a media fixation since his Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) skyrocketed to dot-com stardom by going public in 1997, has long avoided the spotlight.
But, since purchasing the Washington Post, the traditionally press-shy Bezos has spoken to more reporters. And on Monday, he sat down with USA Today’s personal tech columnist, Edward C. Baig.
While the paper promises a second installment to the interview, here are the four most interesting takeaways from his initial seven-question Q&A:
1. Bezos would integrate Amazon with the Washington Post if he deemed it mutually beneficial.
While the Post’s new owner emphasized that his newspaper was separate from Amazon – a testament to his purported devotion to editorial independence – he said he’s open to any ideas. “The Washington Post really is very separate from Amazon. If the two companies can help each other, of course they would, but they would do that the way any two companies would if they could find some mutual [benefit],” he said.
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2. He’s not denying that he would hire AllThingsD founders Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.
Nearly a week ago, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg – the hugely influential tech reporters that founded the AllThingsD conference and news site – announced they would part ways with News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) , their corporate benefactors, when their contracts expired at the end of the year. Baig, not citing any published rumors, said he’s heard speculation that Bezos could bankroll Swisher and Mossberg’s next venture. Bezos said, with a laugh: “I wouldn’t want to speculate on anything there.”
3. Hit with a completely vague, open-ended question about a heavily reported on future product, Bezos said nothing.
Baig, ever the precise and reader-focused reporter, asked Bezos about the future of an Amazon phone. Jessica Lessin and Amir Efrati, two former Wall Street Journal reporters launching a new technology site, published a scoop earlier this month on JessicaLessin.com, claiming Amazon wants to offer its upcoming smartphone handset for free. If Baig bothered to ask, there was no indication in the Q&A.
4. It’s remarkable that Edward C. Baig is a columnist at the third-largest U.S. newspaper by circulation.
For someone who has covered technology for such prestigious titles as BusinessWeek (pre-Bloomberg) and Fortune Magazine for the last two decades, Baig’s questions are notably vague, granting Bezos – a curious figure worthy of countless, pointed queries – a soapbox rather than a serious interview. Sure, USA Today has a flashy new website and impressive new marquee writers like media columnist Michael Wolff, but this interview proves it also still has its McNewspaper-style hacks, too.