Amazon's Jeff Bezos has started buying news media: full memo

Amazon chief invests in Business Insider.

So it begins. Amazon's Jeff Bezos has made his first step into news media as the main contributor to a $5m investment in  Business Insider.

He's done it under his own investment company, Bezos Expeditions - but as the FT points out Amazon itself has been increasing its digital production output for some time - via ebooks, tv and film productions, and the 1998 aquisition of IMBb.

Here's the memo from Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget:

Team,

I wanted to share the details of the financing we mentioned last night. (Apologies for not being able to share them then — closing these things is an administrative nightmare, and it took a few hours longer than we hoped). 

I'm going to post about this shortly after 10 a.m. Please don't say anything or tweet about it until after the post hits.

Basically, Jeff Bezos is making a significant investment in the company. Our existing investors are also chipping in some more. In total, we're raising $5 million. This capital will allow us to continue to invest aggressively in many areas of the business, including editorial, tech/product, sales and marketing, subscriptions, and events. As we mentioned last night, it will also allow us to expand our office.

Jeff's investment grew out of a dinner he and I had about a year ago. We talked about the business, and he was excited about it. (He sees some parallels with Amazon). A few months later, he expressed an interest in investing. My reaction was basically "Hell, yeah!"

Jeff's vision, leadership, and philosophy at Amazon have inspired a whole generation of startups and entrepreneurs, including me. Amazon has always focused on customers first, knowing that, if they do a great job at that, everything else will take care of itself. This obsession with customers and long-term focus are the reasons that Amazon has been so successful. And this philosophy is something that we very much want to emulate. (We have two sets of customers, obviously — readers and sponsors. And we're obsessed with both).

Jeff's interest, and Business Insider's extraordinary success over the past year, are due to your efforts on behalf of our readers and our clients. We have improved and grown dramatically, and we were pretty good to begin with.

Our goal is simple: To become the best digital business publication on the planet. We're making great progress toward that. And this investment will help us get there.

Thank you again for your incredible work over the past year. Here's to an even better 2013.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos. Photograph: Getty Images
GETTY
Show Hide image

Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496