Amazon: Driven by Data and Guided by the Voices Inside Their Heads

Guest post by Janie Hoffman of all things possible.

NYT v Amazon

By now, you’ve read it.

As of this writing, it’s received over 5,000 comments.

The Sunday New York Times Page One feature was a fascinating read and (allegedly) well researched. There was really nothing shocking disclosed as corporate culture has long demanded and created the type of environment described in the story.

The shocking part was Amazon’s response in both the manufactured memo from Amazon Chief Exeutive Jeff Bezos, and the effort from Jay Carney, White House vet and Amazon SVP of global corporate affairs, who seemed to believe he might control the burn via a remote feed from Seattle during a live interview on Monday’s CBS Early Show.

I’d ask what was Carney thinking by not being in-studio, but obviously thinking was not part of this poor excuse for a press strategy.

Based on what we have learned about Amazon, we can go out on a limb and say the company most likely has a jet on call regardless of the day or time of the week. Unless there was a family emergency with Jay (and forgive me if there was), the former White House Press Secretary should have been on that plane Sunday and in studio at CBS on Monday.

CBS took the high road. Just prior to Carney’s interview (most likely pre-taped, pre-show), Jodi Kantor–the NYT journalist who co-wrote the Sunday cover story with David Streitfield–was interviewed live at the Early Show desk. Amazon facts and figures, including and overall market value of $250 billion, were discussed and displayed as graphics. If Kantor had remained seated there during Carney’s interview, it could have gotten very ugly.

It got ugly regardless.

sheep amazon

Carney opened by saying to Charlie Rose that it was great to “see” him but stopped mid-sentence. On a remote feed, Jay most likely did not see Early Show co-hosts Rose, Gayle King or Holly Williams. He probably didn’t have the chance to read their facial expressions or body language responses during his interview.

Then again, neither did we.

Perhaps this was the trade that Carney negotiated for giving an exclusive interview to CBS News. Maybe CBS agreed, knowing the amount of traffic they would attract to their digital platform. Or perhaps I’m giving too much credit to both sides in this case.

Carney was presented with a gift of uninterrupted, on-air time to state his case, and instead wasted it with an admittedly “fundamental reaction” to the Times feature, drawing countless comparisons between Amazon’s corporate culture and that of similar tech giants.

Finally, back at the desk and on camera, correspondent Holly Williams was as frustrated as the rest of us, and she asked whether Carney had “a concrete rebuttal” to the feature.

He did…sort of.

By then, our coffee was cold and we were already shutting down because he had blown the valuable opportunity afforded to him by disrespecting those of us that turned on and tuned in to hear something…anything of substance.

Then, as Jon Stewart once proclaimed with his signature “Go on…” This Happened.

In the closing moments of the interview, Carney admitted that Amazon does not pay for maternity leave. He then threw one final Hail Mary comparison, telling Rose that Amazon is one of “80 percent of U.S. companies” that don’t cover maternity leave.

Unlike the other examples he threw out during the interview, this one wasn’t weak. It was reprehensible.

He didn’t mention how many of those U.S. companies had an overall market value of $250 billion, though the segment reminded us of Amazon’s worth at least once.

When you phone it in like Carney did, you’re going to miss a few great opportunities. It doesn’t help if you think you’re the smartest guy in the room when, in fact, you’re not even there.