Amazon Crushes It, and Possibly You

A photo of Amazon's website.

Image credit: Evan Lorne / Shutterstock

The Onion recently put out a wonderful parody article that was uncomfortably close to the sad reality of tech business these days. Purported to be written by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, it was entitled “My Advice To Anyone Starting A Business Is To Remember That Someday I Will Crush You.”

In it, Bezos provides advice for new entrepreneurs that is actually fairly reasonable, but which always ends with the idea that no matter what happens, eventually Amazon will step in and destroy whatever startup that you might hope to build.

The reason this article hits a bit close to home is because of a Gizmodo piece from earlier in July that argues that “At This Point, Amazon Can Crush a Company Just By Filing for a Trademark.” Jones points out that Amazon is such a large company that simply announcing a plan to compete in a specific market is enough to send other company’s stock toppling, citing the unfortunate state of Blue Apron’s IPO after Amazon announced it was filing a “meal-kit trademark that covers prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or vegetables . . . ready for cooking and assembly as a meal.”

Partnering with the large company is a not a good option, either. Just ask Nucleus cofounder Morley Ivers, who had received an investment from Amazon through its Alexa Fund to create an intercom that allowed non-Amazon devices to work with Amazon’s Alexa. Nucleus returned the favor by giving Amazon insights into how its system worked and its user behavior, only to find out that Amazon was using that information to create their own Echo Show—a device that completely made theirs obsolete.

The worst thing is that, while they were aware that Amazon was working in the space, they did not know that the new device would make theirs truly obsolete until the product was officially announced.

Ivers warns that other companies that work with Amazon to develop Alexa-related devices should be careful that they don’t make the same mistakes he did, although he doesn’t believe that the company is actually malicious.

But with quotes like, “Be prepared, among other things, for my company to duplicate your product or service and sell it at prices you can never compete with, all the while turning your board members against you one by one and, eventually, buying your company for less than it’s worth just so we can shut it down,” clearly The Onion doesn’t see things the same way.


How Does The Onion Make Money

The Onion is one of the funnies publications on the Internet, but it is fair to say that their popularity has skyrocketed with the spread of Web2.0.

In case you are unfamiliar with The Onion, they are a satirical news publication that creates hilarious content on a variety of topics. Some of their content is directly relevant to what is hot in the world of news at the present time, though they also create a lot of great evergreen content as well.

“We always try to evolve in line with that other publications are doing,” Cole Bolton, The Onion’s editor told Chris Heller of The Atlantic. “The way we want to present our information is how other news outlets are presenting their information. We have to adapt to what they’re doing.”

This is a reasonable strategy for a satirical publication like The Onion, as there is a certain amount of emulation that must occur when satirizing something. It especially makes sense because one of The Onion’s goals is to “call out bullshit” as Bolton would put it.

So how exactly does The Onion go about making money? One of the company’s main ways of making a profit comes from Onion Labs, a full-service advertising agency that operates in-house. Onion Labs hasn’t even been in existence for more than three years, but in this time they have grown and now are responsible for 81 percent of Onion Inc.’s total revenue—that is an incredible contribution in such a short amount of time

Have you ever read The Onion?

You can read more about The Onion and Onion Inc. in this article from The Atlantic.

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