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Why the Washington Post Needs Amazon Prime Subscribers

Photograph by Flickr user Max Borge.

The Washington Post could get tens of millions more digital subscribers starting Wednesday with the announcement from the newspaper that it is now a perk included with Amazon Prime. The move does two big things for the Post: First, it ties the news organization even closer to owner Jeff Bezos’s other company. Second, it continues the Bezos-owned Post‘s push to become a nationally dominant newspaper by turning Amazon customers into Post readers.

Amazon Prime members will get free access to the Post‘s national digital edition for six months, with an option to continue for $3.99 per month, according to a newspaper press release. Digital-only national subscriptions—which exclude local news on mobile platforms—have a standard rate of $99 per year.

Amazon doesn’t disclose publicly how many Prime members it has, but Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, told CNBC last week there could be as many as 80 million paying for the $99 annual service, which also includes discounted express shipping, streaming video and music, and photo storage.

Under Bezos, the Post has been aggressively pushing itself as a national publication through other avenues. Digital access to the Post’s website is included as a perk of subscriptions to more than 240 newspapers around the world, including major dailies like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Dallas Morning News. And Kindle owners received a similar offer to Prime members last year, getting six months of free access to the Post, followed by six months at $1, and finally the $3.99 monthly charge.

It’s worth noting here that the Post and Amazon are legally independent of each other—Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns the Post through his private investment firm Nash Holdings.

All of this plays into the Post‘s grander plan of trying to become the newspaper brand for a national—and perhaps international—audience, a fight it’s in with the New York Times and USA Today, perhaps the only two other daily publications with the resources and reach to build large networks of digital partners.

So far, the strategy appears to be panning out. The Post‘s digital readership has exploded over the past year. In August, it logged 52 million unique visitors and 596 million total page views, a 60 percent increase over August 2014, according to reports it filed with comScore, the online analytics firm advertisers use to determine digital rates. The Post logged its best-ever month online in June, when it counted 54.4 million uniques.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.