Amazon Employees Write Press Releases for Nonexistent Products

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Pic via Biography

Today, Fast Company released a fascinating profile of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The article by Austin Carr focuses on the exec’s dreams of entering and “disrupting” the smartphone market with the Amazon Fire.

We now know that the phone led to a $170M write-down and contributed to Amazon’s largest quarterly loss in nearly fifteen years. But the article is telling for its personal detail, and this paragraph stands out:

Like every product created at Amazon, the Fire Phone began on a piece of paper. Or rather, several typed, single-spaced pieces of paper that contained a mock-up of a press release for the product that the company hoped to launch some day.

Bezos requires employees to write these pretend press releases before work begins on a new initiative. The point is to help them refine their ideas and distill their goals with the customer in mind. The Fire Phone plan was particularly ambitious, insiders say, with a set of objectives that seemed unrealistic even then.”

Tech PRs are often tasked with writing about/securing coverage for products that sound a little wonky to the average reader (we’ve written such releases ourselves). But for products that barely exist, even on the conceptual level?

Here’s another telling line from an anonymous source: “we were not building the phone for the customer–we were building it for Jeff.”

While everyone speculates about Amazon’s future amid reports that it “might soon even be launching a hotel-booking service,” we will say that Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle proved that the company can produce real, entertaining “content” in 2015.

Now it just needs to fix that Apple TV-averse app…