When The Washington Post first launched an online version of their newspaper in 1996, most people probably saw it as an interesting experiment that would be viewed by a small slice of the population. The debut of the site took place just about year after Amazon sold its first book. Those moments can be placed in historical context with the news that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has purchased the Washington Post for $250 million. Big media spent years covering the emergence of the digital era, but for a variety of reasons, many major brands haven’t been been able to adapt quickly enough to avoid dramatic drops in the value of their entities. The Boston Globe just sold for $70 million (twenty years ago, it sold for $1.1 billion). A couple years ago, WaPo sold Newsweek for a buck (and we now know it was overpriced). Newspaper owners had to face a weak economy and the fact that advertising dollars weren’t moving online as fast as eyeballs. But could publishers have moved more quickly to make changes? Should they have seen the writing on the web? One of the key ironies of this era is that our appetite for information has increased as the value of those entities that provide the content has decreased. I think we’ll see a shift in that reality in coming years. The trick for newspapers will be to survive long enough to experience that shift.

+ Here’s Bob Woodward on the deal: “It’s very sad. But if there’s somebody who can succeed, it’s Bezos.” Consider how much media times have changed since Woodward and Bernstein covered Watergate. Forget underground garages. A modern day Deep Throat would have released his information via Twitter. Who could resist all those followers?

+ “This was just plain sad. Now we belong to a guy who is so rich that the paper is around one per cent of his net worth.” The New Yorker’s David Remnick on Donald Graham’s choice.

+ Here’s Bezos’ letter to the employees of the Washington Post.