Amazon used to just be an online book store, but the only thing that Amazon then had in common with Amazon now is that it was mostly responsible for putting book stores like Barnes and Noble out of business. Now a days, it seems like Amazon is everywhere, making money hand over fist and continuing to put businesses out of… Business across multiple industries. A perfect example of that is the fear that rippled across the grocery store industry when it was announced that Amazon purchased Whole Foods as Amazon has enough money to essentially lower prices to the point that Whole Foods can operate at a loss just to increase it’s market share and take out it’s competition, giving them a monopoly in the grocery store business. While the government will eventually step in to slow them down, right now they’re not really doing anything different from what Berkshire Hathaway does (the hyper-successful business owner by Warren Buffet), they just seem to be doing it on a much larger level (if that’s possible). One really only has to venture to Amazon’s Wikipedia page to see how many industries they’re making money from (as of the writing of this list there are literally almost 30). So, let’s take a look at the Top 10 ways that Amazon is both taking over the world and your life.
10. Entertainment – Movies/Television
While Netflix was the first company to enter the streaming realm, Amazon quickly followed them and where Netflix was winning in quantity it appeared that Amazon was winning in quality, as it was the first non-traditional Hollywood studio to have a film with Academy Award nomination for Best Picture (Thanks to it’s distribution of Manchester by the Sea). Amazon’s video streaming platform, which was recently rebranded as Prime Video, a product that was smartly bundled with the Prime package that only cost consumers $99 for the entire year (which would give them free two-day shipping among other perks), which is yet another way that Amazon is able to bundle services or lower prices in one area to basically make it impossible for it’s competition to do just that, compete. While Netflix is still the market leader, it’s lead has been shrinking as more people cut cords and move away from traditional sources of media like cable and satellite and add more dirt cheap (relatively) options like Prime Video, Hulu and Vudu. They’ve made some huge partnerships in the realm of sports television as well, landing exclusive rights to broadcast Thursday Night Football before the 2017 NFL season, meaning that Amazon is slowly but surely taking over every aspect of the visual at home entertainment industry.
9. Entertainment- Video Games
Those reading the first entry on this list may have noticed one glaring omission that would’ve made the final sentence in that entry untrue (that final sentence being “…meaning that Amazon is slowly but surely taking over every aspect of the visual at home entertainment industry.”) and that’s video games. However, Amazon has dabbled in video games for a decade, as it acquired the game developer/distributor Reflexive Entertainment in October of 2008. After that acquisition the studio continued to develop games for PC, Mac and Kindle eReaders under the brand(s) Reflexive and Amazon Digital Services, with games like Every Word and Airport Mania (basically they created smartphone games around the dawn of smartphones). It wasn’t until 2012 that Amazon announced an actual wing to it’s company that’d be dedicated fully to developing and releasing video games. That was named, unsurprisingly, Amazon Game Studios, with the stated goal of introducing “Innovative, fun and well-crafted games”. They moved from that back to acquiring game developers, doing just that in February of 2014 when they acquired Double Helix games as part of their “ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers”. The biggest move that they’ve made, though, was the nearly billion dollar purchase of game streaming giant Twitch, the leader in that industry that has allowed gamers to share the live or recorded sessions of them playing particular games with their followers/audience. Adding Twitch helped them reach a much younger demographic than their other acquisitions have and like all of its moves boiled down to adding more people to its Prime membership program, and to promote other Amazon-related businesses. That’s really the bottom line behind all of these moves and is the reason why Amazon is such a gigantic success.
While the last entry explained the bottom line behind each of Amazon’s business moves (it’s bottom line), some people like to equate those moves to something out of a sci-fi movie like Terminator, where the military computer program SkyNet ended up building robots that took over mankind and nearly wiped humans off of the planet. While some people say that as a joke, there are those that really believe that and so part of their fear has to stem from the fact that Amazon has been investing heavily in drone technology the past couple of years. Referred to by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself not as “Drones” but as being part of “Prime Air” and called “Aerial Vehicles” the engineers at Amazon were already on their sixth or seventh generation of drones by April of last year. Those drones may sound futuristic and laughable but they should absolutely terrify people… That work for companies like Wal-Mart and Target, as they have been described as being able to knock down the final barrier that is keeping Amazon from completely dominating the retail marketplace. As some of you know, Amazon has decimated the retail marketplace by offering the same products for much cheaper but because they don’t have any brick and mortar stores, they’ll never be able to capture 100% of the market as some people want to get their products same day. So, the purpose of the drones would be to deliver products from thousands of Amazon distribution centers to people same day. There’s also the idea of sending AI-powered delivery trucks to peoples homes, which makes more sense as you’d think that people would be looking to order more than whatever could fit on a drone (or series of drones). Either way, if Amazon is looking to avoid a SkyNet esque comparison, this is probably not the best move for them.
7. The Kindle
If people want a glimpse of the future mentioned in the last entry they need look no further than the tablet that’s offered by Amazon, The Kindle. While it may seem like old news it’s actually the perfect example of what a world run by Amazon would look like as it’s basically a product made by Amazon, that you purchase, to basically look at information dictated by Amazon and to buy products made and distributed by Amazon. While it obviously has general internet access as well, the built-in programs make it (at least more so than other tablets like an iPad) a portal into Amazon’s multiple markets. Like the previous entry was a perfect example of how Amazon operates in physical industries like grocery stores, the Kindle is the perfect example of how Amazon double (or triple or quadruple) dips into information technology. The Kindle gives you access to every entry before and after this one, with games from Amazon being built into it, movies from Prime Video being saved or streamed and the ability to buy groceries from Whole Foods also being an option, with the future option of having them delivered by “aerial vehicle” or automated delivery truck being one click away, as well. While Amazon has yet to offer a smartphone it’s being reported that that’s something that’s close to happening and once that happens you’ll have the Kindle to thank as it’s provided Amazon with all the data they need to know how to make one that it’s users will really enjoy, because they’re all essentially market testing one right now everytime they use their Kindle. Nothing that Amazon does happens by chance and this is a perfect example of that.
The only thing that the Kindle can’t control is that access to the internet, as the internet has all of the information that humans have ever had, ever, on it. While a lot of that information comes from history books, day-to-day information comes from newspapers and that’s something that Amazon can’t control, right? Well, sort of. The CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos actually purchased one of the most respected newspapers in the world The Washington Post recently for $250 million dollars, which is a pittance for Bezos who is the richest man in the world and could mean that Amazon may be telling you what they want you to hear in the not-so-distant future. That’s a bit more doomsday-ish than is probably fair, and is something that Bezos and the editors of The Post wanted to make sure was pointed out as they’ve made a pretty big deal out of pointing out that the purchase was done thanks to a private investment from Bezos (as opposed to it being purchased by Amazon itself, or as a wing to Amazon’s burgeoning multi-industry monopoly). There’s really also the fact that at least right now Amazon doesn’t need to dictate the news in it’s favor but that may no always be the case and considering that the Washington Post is the newspaper that all those politicians in Washington D.C. read, you’d have to think that there’s at least some correlation there. Either way, it’s just another example of either Bezos or Amazon entering into another industry that goes beyond the original point of Amazon, even if a newspaper is pretty similar to something you’d find in a bookstore. However, Bezos has so many shares of Amazon stock it’s basically like he owns Amazon outright as well, so it’s also fair to point out that information. For now, anyway.
5. The Internet as a Whole
Outside of controlling the news there’s another way to control information and that’s by controlling the internet itself. Sound impossible? Well, it is and it isn’t. When most people think of the internet they think of millions of interconnected devices around the world but the reality is that the majority of websites are stored on servers that really are owned by a handful of companies. Larger websites have their own servers, obviously, but most websites hire third party companies to host their sites as opposed to buying and maintaining their own servers and one of the main companies that sell server space is… You guessed it… Whole Foods! It’s in the aisle typically adjacent to the dairy products. We’re kidding, it’s Amazon. Amazon is actually considered the leader in cloud-based services and is so large that it actually controls FIVE TIMES the information of it’s next 14 competitors, combined. So, that whole bit about the Kindle controlling information? Yeah, it is starting to get really SkyNet-y in here. Because of that, it works very closely with the government, namely the CIA. While that should raise red flags you also have to wonder what Amazon is doing with all of that data especially with the recent news about Facebook and how it’s data was used before and during the 2016 Presidential Election. Beyond that, though, one company shouldn’t really be capable of turning off the internet either not just for moral or ethical reasons but because of what would happen to the world economy, or people’s healthcare or any other of, you know, every business that exists more and more either online as a whole or with the help of online services. A perfect example of that is the fact that last year an engineer working with Amazon’s S3 department (which is a cloud-based group that owns almost 50% of the cloud services market) accidentally entered a typo into the code they were using during an update, that typo either took down a large portion of websites online or made them unbearably slow, meaning that a typo made much of the internet unusable for over an hour. The best way to explain that was stated by German statesmen Klemens von Metternich who stated; “When Amazon sneezes, the internet catches a cold”, which makes sense when you realize that the S3 side of Amazon’s internet business alone is used by just under 150,000 websites. Yikes.
Part of what Amazon does with the internet, beyond simply owning the infrastructure of it, is how it utilizes it to make certain aspects of life more efficient and simple. The best example of of that is how it helps regular people facilitate their donations, whether it be to charities of their choice or politicians. The first major example of that was way back in 2004 when they created “channels” to help people donate between $5 and $200 to whichever politician they back in the 2004 Presidential Campaign between then-President George W. Bush and the Democratic hopefuls that ran against him, namely in Senator John Kerry. Despite the fact that the program was in it’s infancy it still managed to raise over $300,000 for the Presidential hopefuls. Beyond that it’s also used this program to raise money for the Red Cross after natural diasasters like Hurriance Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean that decimated Indonesia to the point that it was one of the worst natural disasters known to man. Beyond that, it initiated the Smile program in 2013 which allowed people to do their regular shopping through the Smile program by adding Smile. to the beginning of their URL which donated .5% of their purchase amount to whichever charities people selected (through the network of Amazon charities), which means that people that shopped through Smile.Amazon.com would be able to not only donate money to charities but also write those amounts off on their taxes. That’s just the beginning of what could become a major donation resource for charities and politicians, something that hasn’t been lost on critics of Amazon who already dislike the amount of money that Amazon donates to political candidates and lobbyists. With the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United that found that money is a form of free speech, corporations have basically been able to donate as much as they see fit anyway, what makes this different is that Amazon could in theory also dictate the millions of dollars in money that is donated from private individuals to those running for Congress or the Presidency, which’d make them even more powerful than they already are. So while that’s something that hasn’t happened yet, the implication is that people might want to stay on Amazon’s good side just in case. Amazon has also been increasingly more involved in politics, basically doubling the amount of money it donates to candidates every election (going from $1.8 million during the 2011-12 elections, then $4.7 million during the next election) and beyond that has fought feverishly to stop the internet sales tax that’d put a major dent in their profits. For example, in 2011 when Texas announced that it would collect back taxes from Amazon, Amazon announced that it’d no longer do business in Texas. At all. That’s the sort of power that they have.
3. It Can Get It’s Own Laws
The largest news surrounding Amazon lately has stemmed from all of the incentives that different cities and states have been throwing Amazon’s ways in the hopes that they’d be chosen by Amazon as the location of their new, second headquarters. Because of all the assumed benefits that that location would get by Amazon opening a second headquarters of around 50,000 initial employees, it’s thought that any benefits offered would be offset but it does set a pretty bad precedent for a city or state to offer a business what some of these cities have offered in terms of long-term tax holidays especially when you take into account that any actual benefit of something like that to a major city has been found to be negligible at best over the long term even if nothing is offered. Cities/States wanted Amazon to choose them so badly that they did the following:
– New York City: Turned the lights on the Empire State Building, it’s billboards, it’s Wi-Fi charging stations, Madison Square Garden, etc. bright orange, the color of Amazon.
– Tucson, Arizona: Brought a 21-foot tall saguaro cactus to Amazon’s main HQ in Seattle… Which Amazon actually refused to accept (haha).
– Kansas City, Missouri: The Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri wrote 1,000 reviews about Amazon Products, all five stars. Most of which were just thinly veiled compliments about Kansas City and it’s average home price of $122,000. Which might be a negative.
– Ottawa, Ontario: Ottawans were asked to cheer for Amazon during the intermission of a hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators. That one was just lazy.
– Birmingham, Alabama: The city set up three gigantic Amazon boxes around town with giant replica Dash Buttons and even sent flirty Tweets to Amazons…
Beyond those attempts at PR they all offered basically negative taxes, in that Amazon wouldn’t have to pay any taxes for a range of years and the city would pay all sorts of incentives to them, meaning that the cities or states would lose money on the deal. One city, Stonecrest, Georgia, even offered to change it’s name to Amazon, Georgia. A company that has this much power clearly is just insanely powerful especially when the greatest power they’re showing is that they’ve been able to get politicians to ignore their economic advisers who must’ve all told them that there was, again, really no benefit to adding that HQ to their city.
Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods was mentioned in the intro of this article for a reason as it was the perfect microcosm of exactly how Amazon is so omnipresent. Because they’ve got their hands in so many different industries they’re able to basically put a lot of their competition out of business by initially lowering prices in one industry to the point that their competition can’t compete and eventually they go out of business. So in the case of Whole Foods, which was actually known as one of the more expensive grocery stores that people could shop at, they came in and immediately slashed prices for customers (which lead to a lot of viral receipts from people who had shopped at the same location both pre-and-post Amazon acquisition). Because they’re so profitable in other areas of their business, they can literally run their entire grocery arm of their business at a loss for years and years, simply waiting out their competition until they go out of business, at which time they’ll raise prices back up with a much higher market share than they would’ve had otherwise. While it sounds pretty devilish it’s the way that a lot of businesses do business, with combo stores like Target doing the same thing (offering cheaper groceries than most stores that only sell groceries because they know that X percent of people will also buy clothes, or other non-food items while in the store). The only difference is that Amazon is doing it on such a large scale and across multiple industries meaning that in a decade or two everything could be sold by Amazon. Which, is not a good thing because competition is what keeps costs low and innovation high, however people also feared that Wal-Mart could end up taking over the world at some point too so perhaps all this fear is overblown.
1. It’s Re-Shaped Entire Industries
While this is more of a summary of this entire list it should be said that Amazon has been obviously powerful enough to get entire cities or states to change their names or is able to basically take the internet offline (at least until they unplug it and plug it back in) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve been able to completely take over and change industries at or to their will. The first example of that is the book industry and while that gave them the blueprint they’ve needed to enter other retail industries it’s not all bad. One of the better things that have come from Amazon’s amazing rise to power (beyond all the millionaires they created from their stock) is the fact that more people than ever before in the history of the world are capable of publishing their own books. Publishing a blog or website is one thing, but actually being able to publish a book (or e-book) was still something that up until Amazon required the help of a publishing company. That’s really not the case anymore as people are able to individually publish their own books either in terms of an e-book or by pulling a few strings, an actual physical book. That’s just a small example of what Amazon has done and while there is the fear that they’ll create the biggest monopoly in the history of the world it’s also true that innovation is necessary and by shaking up a lot these industries if nothing else Amazon has put the fear of God in some of these previously untouchable companies like Wal-Mart, which has forced them to respond by switching up how they do things as well. That has meant, for now, lower prices for consumers which is always a good thing. So, it’s hard to root against Amazon, unless that is, of course, you used to own Barnes and Noble or ended up crashing into one of those gigantic boxes in Birmingham, Alabama. So, we here at BabbleTop welcome our new Drone overlords! All Hail!