The Washington Post’s Most Valuable Asset Is Now Its Software, Thanks to Jeff Bezos

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos speaks during the inauguration of the Washington Post Headquarters on January 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Since Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, the Amazon CEO has been carefully in distancing himself from the editorial operation of the fabled newspaper. But behind the newsroom, he has been diligently involved in the development of the publishing software powering the Post‘s digital content.

His work is becoming increasingly valuable to the media company. Last week, the Post struck a deal to license its content management platform, Arc, to British oil giant BP. The energy company will use the tool to publish articles, newsletters and videos to its 70,000 employees across 250 internal websites and a future mobile app.

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Like several other media companies with in-house content management systems, the Post runs a side business of licensing its publishing software to other news sites. But realizing that many large companies’ communication teams are essentially publishers in terms of the size of audience they serve, Bezos wanted to reach clients beyond the media circle.

BP was the first non-media client the Post has attracted.

The licensing business of Arc was officially created in 2014 shortly after Bezos took ownership. According to Bloomberg, he would meet with Arc’s engineers every two weeks to discuss strategies and plans to improve the software.

Although Arc is not yet a profitable unit on its own, business has been booming in the past three years. Licensing revenue tripled From 2016 to 2017 and more than doubled last year.

The Post expects Arc to generate an annual revenue of $100 million within the next three years and become the newspaper’s third largest revenue stream after advertising and subscription, Shailesh Prakash, the Post‘s chief information officer and product head, told Bloomberg.

Marching into content management services puts the Post in competition with established market players including WordPress.com, Drupal, as well as publishing softwares run by other media companies, such as Vox Media’s Chorus platform.

Arc is currently run on Amazon Web Services. Prakash said Bezos recently suggested a serverless architecture that can make the software faster and cheaper to run.

“We have cranky journalists who demand and use this every day, so there’s nowhere for me to hide,” Prakash said.

 

Correction: A previous of this article incorrectly stated that The Ringer runs its own content management system and that Drupal is owned by Acquia.

The Washington Post’s Most Valuable Asset Is Now Its Software, Thanks to Jeff Bezos