Author: Johanna Burfeind
Introduction. This article deals with the phenomenon of change leadership in the newspaper industry. Many traditional and long-established print newspapers find themselves in a crisis-like situation because the demand in print newspapers is decreasing continuously while digital news content is strongly on the rise. Although the financial situation of many newspapers calls for a change that embraces digital opportunities, many businesses are unable to adapt owing to path dependence and inertia. Large parts of organizational culture in the traditional print industry are not open-minded towards digital evolvement.
Aim of the study. The aim of this article is to analyze the successful change leadership of Jeff Bezos at The Washington Post since his takeover in 2013 in order to find implications for other newspaper businesses that find themselves in a similar situation of digital inertia. The adopted research method is the case study approach by analyzing secondary data: Various qualitative sources (e.g. newspaper articles or research papers) regarding the case of the Washington Post are put into the theoretical context of change leadership. The key results implicate that Bezos was able to save the company from a financial downward spiral by setting a strong and motivating vision that focused on digital performance, changing workplace structures and incentive systems, hiring technological affine employees and fostering digital experimentation. A change in the culture was, however, only possible because Bezos found the right balance between introducing new and keeping traditional values to not overstrain the employee’s change ability.
Keywords: newspaper industry, Jeff Bezos, The Washington Post, change leadership, cultural change
JEL Classification: L82