Bezos, Buffett, Henry & Davis? One Man’s Crusade to Save Newspapers

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Today's release of the 37th hand-written letter to Warren Buffett, by a 39-year old, retired advertising executive, provides possible insight into the latest string of billionaires buying newspapers and what they could be doing to revitalize the industry.*

Each week, for the last nine months, Andrew Davis has dutifully crafted a hand-written letter to Warren Buffett. His objective: a sit down meeting with the billionaire’s media division. His goal: to revitalize the struggling newspaper industry.

Over the course of his last thirty-six letters, Davis has revealed a series of elegantly simple ideas designed to rethink the way newspapers drive revenue, increase civic engagement, survive in a digitally-driven world, and even elevate the role of the newspaper’s print product.

“Technology isn’t killing print,” Davis writes. “Publishers are. We have to change WHAT we print if the industry is to survive. That means we have to rethink the content continuum,” he continues.

The 39-year old former digital marketing and advertising executive started writing the letters last October after successfully selling his marketing agency. “I love a good challenge and I couldn’t think of a better one to sink my teeth into than fixing the newspaper business. Apparently, I’m not the only one with the same goal. It’s nice to see Buffett, Henry and Bezos taking on the same challenge,” Davis notes.

So, is Buffett reading his letters each week? “I know he’s reading them. I heard from Carol Loomis (Buffett’s friend and Fortune Magazine writer) a few months ago, after Warren forwarded one of my letters to her,” Davis says. “But, I haven’t heard from Warren... yet,” he adds.

Davis says at the end of the day his ideas are simple: newspapers need to focus on three things:

First, newspaper executives need to embrace, elevate, and monetize the brands of their individual journalists. “In a social media-driven world, everyone has an audience and we must embrace the notion that today’s content consumer builds relationships with individual writers - not the masthead brand. What if the newspaper of tomorrow embraced the idea that I subscribe to an individual's content not a newspaper's brand?” Davis asks.

Second, newspaper publishers must stop searching for new revenue streams and start experimenting with new revenue models. “Advertising is broken. Publishers are getting paid less but publishing more. Subscription models don’t work. Newspaper executives need to consider new models, like underwriting if they’re going to survive,” Davis says.

Finally, newspaper publishers must embrace the idea that the only thing that differentiates them from today’s digitally-driven world is the fact that they have a print product. “I’m not sure how long that will last, but while we’re still printing newspapers, let’s leverage the platform and change what we print.”

Will Andrew Davis ever get to sit down with Warren Buffett? Maybe not. But this isn’t the first time he’s used hand-written letters to get a meeting that landed him a job. “Nearly two decades ago I wrote a letter every month to executives at The Jim Henson Company in the hopes of landing my dream job. It took three years, but eventually they hired me,” Andrew says. “At the end of the day, persistence pays off."

If Jeff Bezos or John Henry are looking for advice, maybe they need to sit down with Andrew - or at least read his letters. He’s posted most of them online for all to read (at Maybe, just maybe, the one man who can save the newspaper business isn't Buffett or Bezos, it's a man most of us have never heard of.

Andrew M. Davis is also the author of an best-selling business and marketing book called Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships.

*Buffett’s Newspaper Buying Finds Copycats in Bezos, Henry, Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2013 (

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Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis
since: 09/2008
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