Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
France has kicked off 2014 with an array of skirmishes against Amazon, Google and other U.S. Internet companies, in what is shaping up as a classic battle between comfortable Gallic tradition and disruptive modernity.
On Thursday, Jan. 9, the French Senate unanimously approved a bill that would ban Amazon from offering free shipping on books in France. Strongly endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, the legislation is supposed to safeguard the existence of the country's 3,500 bookstores, about 800 of which are independent.
A few hours earlier, France’s national agency for data protection, known by its acronym CNIL, announced that its sanctions committee had found Google to be in breach of national privacy laws, based on the company’s March 2012 decision to merge different privacy policies for each of its services -- including YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs -- into one policy. CNIL, along with data protection agencies in five other EU nations, argued that Google doesn't sufficiently inform its users about how or why their data is processed. It ordered the Internet giant to pay a fine of 150,000 euros (about $200,000) and to publish a communiqué on its French home page informing users of the sanction.
And in late December, a handful of companies offering private minicab services online in France, including the San Francisco-based startup Uber, began organizing against a new government decree that forces minicabs to wait 15 minutes before picking up a customer, unlike regular taxis that have no such restriction.
By Rob Cox and Richard Beales
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.
Is it time for Google billionaires Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt to invest in journalism? In 2013, Amazon architect Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar announced a new investigative reporting venture. Yet strictly by the numbers, few have made their money at the expense of the old-school pillars of the fourth estate quite as obviously as the Google guys.
By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Amazon is promising yet more jam tomorrow – this time from drone deliveries. Jeff Bezos, the online retailer’s chief executive, expects to be able to use unmanned aircraft to deliver small packages within a few years. It’s a striking vision, but it seems as overly optimistic as investors’ expectations of the company overall. Amazon’s market value has ballooned to $180 billion despite big profits always hovering in the future.
from The Great Debate:
This weekend Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes that he wants small unmanned aerial vehicles -- drones -- to speed packages to online shoppers as early as 2017, cutting delivery times to as quick as 30 minutes.
It's a bold, imaginative plan -- one that could propel a host of technological and legal advancements.
from Full Focus:
Photographers Nacho Doce and Ricardo Moraes spent months documenting deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Initial data from Brazil’s space agency suggests that deforestation of the vast Amazon - the largest rainforest in the world - spiked by over a third during the past year, wiping out an area more than twice the size of the city of Los Angeles. If the figures are borne out by follow-up data, they would confirm fears of scientists and environmental activists who warn that farming, mining and Amazon infrastructure projects, coupled with changes to Brazil's long-standing environmental policies, are reversing progress made against deforestation.
from Stories I’d like to see:
1. Wash Post reporters: Get a Bezos comment
These sentences in last week’s Times profile of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos beg for a follow-up from the house the Grahams built:
“Every story you ever see about Amazon, it has that sentence: ‘An Amazon spokesman declined to comment,’" Mr. Marcus said.
from Jack Shafer:
When journalists pressed William Henry Vanderbilt in 1882 about his plan to discontinue his railroad’s popular but unprofitable mail run, the richest man in the world reportedly exclaimed, “The public be damned!” Whether Vanderbilt said "be damned" or not -- he claimed to have been misquoted -- business titans of the Gilded Age routinely assumed this default posture.
Extending the big buzz-off to the press and the public is a tradition that Jeff Bezos's Amazon.com Inc. has restored to the commonweal, as the New York Times slyly noted yesterday in its business section feature about the $25 billion man. As many journalists noted, the piece quotes James Marcus, former Amazon employee and current executive editor of Harper's magazine, talking about the company's sense of reserve. "Every story you ever see about Amazon, it has that sentence: 'An Amazon spokesman declined to comment,'" said Marcus. The next line of the Times story went completely meta, reading, "Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment."
from Anatole Kaletsky:
It is now a week since Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, announced that he was buying the Washington Post, in what could be the most exciting case of convergence between the new media and the old since the merger of AOL with Time Warner. But how might Bezos re-launch this venerable flagship of U.S. journalism? And what could his ownership of the Post mean for news businesses around the world?
These may seem strange questions for a column devoted mostly to controversies in public policy and economics, but newspapers today are a declining industry comparable to the steel and shipbuilding industries in the 1980s, and employ even more people at higher wages. Newspapers are therefore of great economic significance, not to mention their importance to democracy. Yet public discussion often assumes that journalism is technologically doomed. The Internet, it seems, is ineluctably turning news and analysis from a thriving industry, gainfully employing millions on decent incomes, into an unpaid hobby for philanthropists or self-promoters who will earn their living by other means.
from Jack Shafer:
I resist making predictions if only to avoid the inevitable disappointment when they fail to peg future events. As best as I can tell, every forecast, every prophecy, every reading of entrails and chicken bones that I've committed to print (or its digital equivalent) has failed to come true. But this time I think I've read enough into my tea leaves to confidently assert my suspicion that in early October, after Jeff Bezos consummates the deal he made with Donald Graham to purchase the Washington Post for $250 million, one of his first acts of ownership will be to name Vijay Ravindran his publisher of the newspaper.
Ravindran, who holds the title of senior vice president and chief digital officer at the Washington Post Co., seems like such a logical fit for the job I feel guilty about killing that goat and boiling a chicken to confirm my hunch. Ravindran's company biography makes him sound like a research product bred specifically to replace the Washington Post's current publisher and chief executive officer, Katharine Weymouth.