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Bezos to Post: You too can be like Amazon, in 3 simple steps

Without specifics, Bezos says that what worked for Amazon could work for the Washington Post. It's his first interview -- of course, with the Post -- since he agreed to buy the newspaper for $250 million.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the Kindle event last year.
James Martin/CNET

Jeff Bezos, the man who made Amazon the Walmart of the Internet, says the same guiding principles behind his e-commerce giant will well serve his latest investment, The Washington Post.

"We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient," he told Paul Farhi in an interview with the newspaper. "If you replace 'customer' with 'reader,' that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too."

His first interview since agreeing to buy the Post's publishing side for $250 million comes ahead of a fact-finding and bridge-building mission to the paper this week. With such information-gathering still in front of him, Bezos at the moment was light on specifics, but he outlined some general ideas that could shape his influence on the newspaper.

In a memo to Post employees last month, Bezos said he won't be running the paper day-to-day, leaving that in the hands of the current editorial leadership.

"In my experience, the way invention, innovation and change happen is [through] team effort. There's no lone genius who figures it all out and sends down the magic formula. You study, you debate, you brainstorm and the answers start to emerge. It takes time," he said in the interview published Tuesday. "'Quickly' in my mind would be years."

He said newspapers, undercut by Web competition, have yet to find a suitable response to the evolution of news.

"Even behind a paywall [digital subscription], Web sites can summarize your work and make it available for free. From a reader point of view, the reader has to ask, 'Why should I pay you for all that journalistic effort when I can get it for free' from another site?"

Read the full interview on the newspaper's Web site.