Is Facebook swallowing journalism? Embrace it, says Washington Post's digital chief

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz speaks to the press in Huesca. Photo by EFE
HUESCA, Spain -- Yes, it’s good to have a billionaire owner with patience, but it’s even better to have a billionaire owner with a vision.

And the vision of Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is that a news organization has to make its work available free, everywhere.

Bezos is urging the publication's journalists to adopt the principles of retail sales that he has learned over the years in running Amazon, America's largest online retailer of practically everything.

And the man who is putting that vision into practice is Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, the Post's managing editor for digital.

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A fundamental concept in retail strategy is the sales funnel, Garcia-Ruiz said in his keynote address March 10 at the Digital Journalism Conference in Huesca, Spain. The idea is to get as many people as possible to sample your product (in journalism, it's through sharing in social networks), get them to pay for a product, and then make them repeat buyers for higher-value products. At each stage the pool of customers is smaller but spending more.

The key in a business sense, said Garcia-Ruiz, is to keep expanding that pool at the top of the funnel, just as Amazon has done in retail. And from a journalism perspective, the key is to merge the best journalism with the best technology to keep people coming back for more.
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