Amazon wants its marketplace regulated. Why?


August 28, 2020

Plus: The video game industry is drawing inspiration from… reality TV?
August 28, 2020
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Christopher Nolan’s long-delayed thriller Tenet opened in the UK on Wednesday and is slated for a US release on September 3rd. Since the odds of me watching this in-person are the opposite of high, someone please Twitter DM the ending to @TrungTPhan.  

P.S. To all of you in the Hurricane Alley: Stay safe out there.

The Big Idea

Amazon just pulled some PR jujitsu (again)

Amazon’s marketplace for 3rd-party sellers is huge, accounting for half of its $280B revenue in 2019.

It’s also a bit of a Wild West, with counterfeit and fraudulent products galore.

For years, Amazon avoided legal repercussions by holding itself as a blameless provider of services (inventory, shipping) rather than the “seller of record.

But the government wants to hold Amazon liable

Two weeks ago, the California courts sided with a customer who sued Amazon after a faulty 3rd-party battery blew up in her face

A new bill there would make Amazon responsible for its 3rd-party sellers, a much more expensive proposition than… doing nothing.

As with Facebook and Google, regulators are increasingly scrutinizing Amazon for the (physical) content on its platform. 

In a 4D chess move, Amazon is backing the bill

In a blog post, the Seattle-based ecommerce giant writes that they share the “California legislature’s goal of keeping consumers safe.”

While the bill would certainly protect end consumers, it could particularly hamper Amazon’s competitors that don’t actually hold inventory.

Namely, Etsy (see blog) and eBay, who both oppose the bill because it “would stretch liability for online sellers beyond the limits faced by brick-and-mortar stores.”

This isn’t Bezos’ first rodeo 

As the world’s 3rd (get it?) largest company, Amazon has the tech and legal resources to weather stricter e-commerce regs.

Such rules could block upstarts, hurt existing competitors and, ultimately, reduce consumer choice.

Two previous Amazon moves — supporting an online sales tax and a hike of its minimum wage to $15 — were judged by critics to come from the same playbook.

Amazon could afford it (while its competitors couldn’t). And good PR point ends up being the cherry on top.

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Snippets
  • Talk about a strange summer: Walmart is teaming up with Microsoft in a bid to buy TikTok.
  • Flipboard is taking on cable news with its ad-supported “Flipboard TV” network. 
  • The New York Philharmonic is ready to perform again — except instead of a concert hall, they’re setting up shop in a pickup trip
  • The coming death of Internet Explorer has brought a weird fact to light: Apparently, some legacy companies still rely on Internet Explorer
  • The likelihood of successfully scaling Mount Everest has gone up 2x in the last decade, according to a new study. That’s good news for the mountain’s multi-million dollar businesses.
Goodreads Is Shaking

Tons of startups are trying to turn streaming into social media

Picking a TV show to watch is officially more anxiety-inducing than a Cheesecake Factory menu.

With Peacock, HBO Max, Quibi, and Tubi all jumping onto the stream train, it’s easy to fall prey to the paradox of choice. But a new crop of startups is trying to sort through the mess…

And they’re doing it by mimicking social media

  • Bingie is streaming’s answer to Goodreads: you can add the TV shows you’re watching, send recommendation links to friends, and start chats about specific shows.
  • JustWatch, a platform that aggregates new TV across all streaming services, has seen monthly users jump from 10m in December to 20m in July.
  • Watchworthy, Wander, and VUniverse — apps that track your recent watches and send personalized recommendations — all launched earlier this year.

Streaming services want these companies to take off

Netflix has said that its biggest threat is actually the video game industry — not other streaming giants.

Interactive video games like Fortnite are encroaching on Netflix’s most-valued metric: “consumer screen time” (basically, how long the average user is binging on reruns of The Office). 

This summer, Fortnight took another stab at the streaming services by screening films within its virtual world.

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SPONSORED

Online dating has evolved: Meet Slide, the hot new face of the dating app scene

Every industry can be disrupted — even dating apps. 

So, while Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge play quarantine catch-up, Slide is stealing their market share.

How? With video. 

Slide recognized the massive success of the short-form video platforms like Tik Tok and translated it to dating, focusing on features like:

  • Vibe Check”, which gives you the option to video chat immediately after matching to see if there’s chemistry, saving you from endless text conversations (and first date $$$)
  • A video-first approach that lets you see the real people behind the profiles (bye-bye, catfishing)
  • AI-assisted creation “future bae” profiles that help suggest your best matches — then spare you meaningless swipes

TL;DR Slide lets you ditch DM graveyards, painful text small talk, and wasted first dates.

Leave the catfishes to those guys in Oklahoma who use their hands as bait. Check out Slide here.

Slide in →

P.S. Never Venmo someone before you meet, no matter how many times they say they’ll pay you back in Bitcoin. We learned that one the hard way.

Game on

This game maker is using reality shows to shake up e-sports

For years, e-sports has been a bro’s world.

But the gaming goliath Electronic Arts is hoping to pull in a wider audience by introducing reality TV-style content — a genre with a viewership that generally skews younger and more female.

EA scores a reality hit with The Sims Spark’d

Hosted last December by an American Idol alum, the show featured YouTubers trying to build the “best” world within the uber-popular Sims game, which has sold 200m copies.

4m+ viewers tuned into the 4-episode series, hitting record numbers in the 18-34 age bracket and pulling in a higher percentage of female viewers than other content on TBS’ Eleague show.

There’s more in the pipeline: Derwin James vs. The World, a Madden NFL 21 tournament pitting James (a former football star) against Hollywood actors, musicians, and other famous athletes.

Entertainment programming is table stakes now 

In recent years, Fortnite has taken more and more oxygen out of the social gaming space; to wit, Travis Scott’s Fortnite virtual performance drew 12m+ viewers.

The Sims Spark’d was a bit of a “Hail Mary pass for EA,” Fast Company says.

But after scoring with the unscripted reality show formula, EA plans to increase its broadcast of nontraditional esports from 10% to 50% of its offering.

In other words, “show” them the money. 

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Elon again (sorry)

What exactly is Elon Musk’s Neuralink? Here are our 3 guesses.

The Verge reports that Elon “King of the Trolls” Musk, has promised a demo of a working Neuralink device today

What’s Neuralink? Oh, nothing crazy… just his tight-lipped neurotech firm that’s working on stuff that will enable us to control objects and devices with our minds (we think).

We figure this can go one of 3 ways:

Scenario 1: Revolutionary (AKA The Ex Machina)

Musk ascends the stage in total silence while an assistant wheels out a human-sized iPhone. The lights dim. With just a brief glance, he turns the device on, logs in to Spotify, and plays “Summer Hits of the 90’s” radio. They dance, while a single tear rolls down this writer’s cheek. 

Scenario 2: Disastrous (AKA The Skynet)

Basically just Terminator 3, except instead of General Brewster clicking “Y”, it’s Elon thinking “Turn On”. In both situations, Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably there.

Scenario 3: Full-Blown Troll (AKA The JP from Grandma’s Boy)

Musk walks into the auditorium sporting what are clearly two old Nokia cellphones crudely superglued to his forehead like horns. He announces that “the future is here, fleshbags” in his best robot impression, then flips off the crowd. He exits stage left.

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Shower Thoughts

  1. Trusting your gut is allowing millions of bacteria to collectively make a crucial decision for you.
  2. Birds probably do more people watching than people do bird watching.
  3. Before radios, tvs, and smartphones people never knew there were so many dumb people out there. They just thought it was that one guy in town.
  4. The kids growing up gaming on tablets are going to have all the internet addiction without any of the computer skills.
  5. Every surgery in the lego universe is plastic surgery.
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Today’s email was brought to you by Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, Bobby Durben, and Trung Phan.
Editing by: Zachary “Everything store” Crockett, Harry Mental (aka Judge Mental (Chief Justice)).

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