The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Ashley Woolheater,

New Expose Details Bezos's Next Monopoly: The Press, and the Systems Essential to Producing the News

“[O]ne of the best answers to the news industry’s technology woes is in the hands of a man who has repeatedly proved that he cannot be trusted to have anyone’s best interests at heart other than his own.”

“Rather that continuing his every-person-for-themselves path to dominance, Bezos should make Arc XP his gift to the news community.”


Jeff Bezos's purchase of the The Washington Post in 2013 has been a mixed blessing for journalism. But his ownership of a publishing platform (Arc XP) used by other newspapers has created an entirely new threat - the extension of the anti-competitive exploitation Bezos is famous for at Amazon to America's free press.

That is the conclusion of an investigation entitled "Bezos's Next Monopoly: The Press," published today in the July/August issue of Washington Monthly. Supported by a grant from the Open Markets Institute's Center for Journalism and Liberty, journalist Dan Froomkin also concludes Bezos' control of Arc XP digs an even deeper hole for a news industry already reeling from Google and Facebook's monopolization of online advertising. Thanks to Arc's ownership structure, a growing number of America's struggling newspapers - both large and small - must now pay millions to one of the world's richest men for basic services.

Open Markets Institute Executive Director Barry Lynn released the following statement regarding Froomkin's article: "Dan Froomkin's carefully researched article is a blinking red light for any American who champions a free and fair press. Bezos is well on his way to making most major newspapers wholly dependent on the Post's backend technology, which sets his competitors up for exploitation, manipulation, and surveillance. An already-consolidated news industry is at risk of a Bezos-style takeover."

Jody Brannon, director of the Center for Journalism and Liberty, said that Froomkin interviewed dozens of industry leaders for insights into the ramifications and potential of the Post's integrated publishing system. "Dan's reporting shows the make-or-break importance of a stable and effective tech stack, which is essential to editorial, advertising, subscriptions and more. Without such critical infrastructure, few newsrooms can evolve to perform their indispensable job of providing news to ensure an informed democracy. If Bezos were serious about supporting American democracy, he'd make Arc a public good."

Excerpts from Dan Froomkin's piece:

"Bezos's control of Arc and Zeus give him significant power over the news industry. They both allow him to harvest vast amounts of cash from competitors, even as he makes them increasingly dependent on his technology. We know, based on past experience with Amazon and its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing subsidiary, that being dependent on Bezos's technology comes with serious consequences--often including manipulation, predatory surveillance, and unfair practices. What initially appears to be a benign solution becomes exploitation of a trapped client base.

"Bezos's outsized investment means that he could soon control the backbone of most of the large newspaper markets in America.

"Meanwhile, Arc's high cost creates a barrier to entry for new news organizations that can't afford it. It further accelerates the cleavage of the industry into haves and have-nots. The have-nots--including most small local and ethnic publishers--often struggle with inferior technology that stifles both editorial and revenue ambitions, at a time when local news is increasingly recognized as an essential and endangered public good...

"There is an alternative scenario. Rather that continuing his every-person-for-themselves path to dominance, Bezos should make Arc XP his gift to the news community. Bezos says he bought The Washington Post because of his "support of American democracy." Having stepped down as Amazon CEO, he says he is now devoting himself to "improving civilization." He could live up to those words by turning Arc XP over to a mission-driven nonprofit entity that could make it open-source, accessible, and affordable to all qualifying news organizations.

"Just like the 19th-century industrialist Andrew Carnegie made a seminal contribution to the free exchange of information by building more than 1,600 public libraries across the United States, Bezos could turn Arc into public infrastructure for a public good."

The Open Markets Institute works to address threats to our democracy, individual liberties, and our national security from today's unprecedented levels of corporate concentration and monopoly power. By combining policy, legal, and market structure expertise with sophisticated communications and outreach efforts, Open Markets seeks not only to hold today's monopolies accountable for abuse of power, but to rebuild an economic system where progress is easier to achieve, because power is far more widely and equitably distributed