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Bezos offers clues to Washington Post: patience, experimentation

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrates the Kindle Paperwhite during Amazon's Kindle Fire event in Santa Monica, California September 6, 2012. RE
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrates the Kindle Paperwhite during Amazon's Kindle Fire event in Santa Monica, California September 6, 2012. RE

(Reuters) - Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon who shocked media watchers when he agreed to buy The Washington Post, told the struggling newspaper he will guide it using the same approach that successfully shaped his e-commerce site and turned it into the world's largest online retailer.

In his first interview since the deal was made on August 5, Bezos told the Washington Post's Paul Farhi on Tuesday that he will put the customer first, encourage innovation and be patient.

"If we figure out a new golden era at the Post...that will be due to the ingenuity and inventiveness and experimentation of the team at the Post," he told the paper.

"I'll be there with advice from a distance. If we solve that problem, I won't deserve credit for it."

Bezos will buy from the Washington Post Co its flagship and sister newspapers for $250 million, ending 80 years of Graham-family ownership.

Bezos will visit the newspaper this week and meet with employees, including a two-hour town-hall session with the newsroom.

The Washington Post will operate independently of Amazon and Bezos said his role will be to offer "a point of view" and provide financial support.

Bezos warned that he is not a "lone genius" with a magic formula for saving the newspaper, which has been beset with challenges from declining readership to plunging advertising revenue.

"You study, you debate, you brainstorm and the answers start to emerge. It takes time. Nothing happens quickly in this mode," he said.

Since starting Amazon in 1994, Bezos' company grew from a book retailer to a global bazaar that offers everything from groceries and shoes to the tablet e-reader Kindle and cloud computing services.

Amazon is renowned - and in some quarters infamous - for its frequent spending on long-term investments, even if it means missing analysts' financial targets.

"I'm skeptical of any mission that has advertisers at its centerpiece," he said. "Whatever the mission is, it has news at its heart."

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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