December 29, 2017
Column | outbound

The United States of Amazon

There is more to the business world than Amazon, even though it might not always seem that way.

By Mitch Mac Donald

The business world is changing faster than ever. Yes, we've been hearing that for decades, but as we enter 2018, it is really true.

Technologies designed to revolutionize logistics and supply chain management seemingly come online every day. Some do portend a significant change in our future. Some, on the other hand, are destined for the scrap heap of overhyped applications that never fulfilled their initial promise.

The business media field is by no means insulated from this dynamic. Traditional means of developing and delivering content remain in place, but they've been joined by an array of new communication channels. Beyond print, beyond websites, and beyond e-newsletters, content must also flow across myriad streams like LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, mobile apps, webcasts, and video feeds.

And, of course, in order to pay its bills, a media company must monetize all those streams by attracting viewers for each one, securing the audiences' interest and trust, and then allowing advertisers and sponsors to ride along on those streams and get their marketing messages in front of those viewers. In a sense, the fundamental precept of using content to create a conduit between buyers and sellers is as old as, well, Gutenberg's moveable-type press. What's different today is the vast number of microchannels through which that content must travel.

While we're on the subject of marketing, an old media business truism has it that some of the best advertising your brands (and your content streams) could ever receive comes from the mouths of the competition. That might sound counterintuitive, but consider the underlying message: By "bad mouthing" competitive brands, you're making it clear to the media buyer that your competition has you worried. Otherwise, in a world where you might be lucky to get 30 minutes a year to pitch an advertising prospect, why would you waste even one of those precious minutes putting your competition front and center on your prospects' radar screens?

For our part at AGiLE Business Media (publisher of DC Velocity and other business media brands), we have always maintained a strict policy of marketing ourselves and not our competition. Our sales directors focus on the strengths and virtues of our brands. We let the competition talk about their brands, and if along the way they want to bring up our brands, we love it!

So, why bore you with all this media business "inside baseball"? Because so many companies in recent years have fallen into this trap, and in so doing, they are helping their competitors and quite likely hurting themselves. And it's because of just one company. One we all seem to talk about ad nauseam. You may have heard of it—it's called Amazon.com.

The little online bookseller that opened its doors on the World Wide Web in 1995 has mushroomed into a retail force of nature and a tech-enabled conglomerate, with business units that now include cloud services, video streaming, fulfillment services, B2B (business-to-business) procurement, Web services, and mobile device manufacturing. It also seems it is what nearly everyone is talking about, nearly all of the time.

We have even adopted a new term for how Amazon is changing the way we conduct business—we call it "the Amazon effect." It's an apt moniker, given how the reverberations ripple throughout the business world every time Amazon announces a new venture or expansion. Yet while all the attention is certainly understandable and may well be justifiable, it may not be the best thing, as noted above.

If you're fixated on Amazon and its potential "effect" on your business, perhaps the best thing to do is stop talking about it. Talk instead about your business, your logistics operations, your strategy, and your path. Amazon will still be there, but there are other things in the world that are important and that are driving change. They deserve some share of mind as well.

About the Author

Mitch Mac Donald
Group Editorial Director
Mitch Mac Donald has more than 30 years of experience in both the newspaper and magazine businesses. He has covered the logistics and supply chain fields since 1988. Twice named one of the Top 10 Business Journalists in the U.S., he has served in a multitude of editorial and publishing roles. The leading force behind the launch of Supply Chain Management Review, he was that brand's founding publisher and editorial director from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he has served as news editor, chief editor, publisher and editorial director of Logistics Management, as well as publisher of Modern Materials Handling. Mitch is also the president and CEO of Agile Business Media, LLC, the parent company of DC VELOCITY and CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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