April 30th, 2012

Amazon.com is taking over the world: Enforcement Division

Amazon has a corporate-life-long history with the New York Times. Bezos had the bright idea early on (_really_ early on) to buy birthday greetings for authors in the NYT. Cheap advertising for a new bookstore, appropriate branding, Feel the Love, etc.

When the NYT first profiled Amazon, they gave us a little warning; they knew that all that attention could wipe out a website. We did okay, and I set up a betting pool on how much our revenue would be (in retrospect, wow, were those small numbers, but at the time, they seemed huge) in the days immediately following.

In the decade and a half since, NYT coverage of Amazon has varied in style, substance, accuracy, etc. Here's a recent entry:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/business/media/byliner-takes-buzz-bissingers-e-book-off-amazon.html

Roughly: Byliner published a short by Bissinger called "After Friday Night Lights". Its presence on Amazon contractually prevented the price it was sold elsewhere to be lower than its price on Amazon. Enforcement is automatic: a bot that spots a lower price somewhere else drops the price on Amazon to zero, if I understood it correctly. Apple decided to promo the item at a lower price. Byliner told Amazon in advance.

"In an e-mail later, Mr. Bryant said that when the company told Amazon about the promotion, before it began, Byliner was warned the price might drop to zero. But, he said, “we hoped that wouldn’t happen.” It did."

Which makes other quotes in the article ("Stunned"!) look a little odd. Whatev, right?

This _is_ what happens when you have Most Favored Nation contracts, and in this particular industry at this particular time, Apple was the one who started that kind of clause so surprise seems uncalled for.

Well, surprise is called for. Who would have thought in 1997 that in 2012, the NYT would be getting the word out to all and sundry that the enforcement division at Amazon should be taken Very, Very Seriously?