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from Stories I’d like to see:

Amazon’s price increase, Congressional whistleblowers, and a question for President Obama

1. Are customers really upset at the Amazon Prime price increase?

The day after Amazon raised the annual subscription price for its Prime service from $79 to $99, the New York Times ran a story headlined, “Complaints As Amazon Raises Cost of Prime.” I found the reporting lacking and the headline unfair.

I imagine if I were reporting the story, I could find people to quote grousing about the 25 percent increase. Indeed, Times reporter David Streitfeld did it the easy way, going on Amazon’s own customer comments page.

But everyone I’ve talked to who subscribes to Prime -- membership not only delivers everything from a book to a flat-screen TV to your doorstep for free, but also provides free movies and TV shows and a free book-lending library -- thinks it is a hard-to-believe bargain at $99 or $79. (One happy customer in my office thought the price had gone from $179 to $199.)

Moreover, Amazon’s notice to customers -- noting that the price hasn’t gone up in nine years, while all the benefits and product offerings have improved dramatically -- was candid and convincing.

from The Great Debate:

France says ‘Non’ to the digital age

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.

from Breakingviews:

Time for Larry and Sergey to invest in journalism?

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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.

from Breakingviews:

Amazon’s drone promise is yet more jam tomorrow

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:

The 4 reasons why Amazon won’t be shipping by drone anytime soon

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:

Photos of the week

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Our top photos from the past week.

from Full Focus:

The Amazon: From Paradise to inferno

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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:

Bezos’ silence, lobbyists and Egypt, and the inner workings of State-owned TV

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:

Jeff Bezos has two words for you: ‘No comment.’

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:

Bezos needs to reinvent a business model, not journalism

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.

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