Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Media: Reporting On Amazon's Dark Underbelly (and Andreessen Horowitz)

From Vanity Fair, April 23:

Inside the Brutal Business Practices of Amazon—And How It Became 'Too Toxic to Touch'

In an interview with Vanity Fair, reporter Dana Mattioli reveals how the company systematically stifles criticism, squeezes out competitors, and even pits its own employees against one another. “People tend not to last,” she says, “because it’s very aggressive and it can be bruising.”

In May of 2020, seven members of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee penned a letter to then CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos. “On April 23,” their message began, The Wall Street Journal “reported that Amazon employees used sensitive business information from third-party sellers on its platform to develop competing products.” The article contradicted previous sworn testimony from the company’s general counsel, possibly rendering the testimony “false or perjurious,” the seven congressional leaders wrote.

The Journal’s exposé, which ultimately spurred Bezos’s first-ever congressional testimony, was written by Dana Mattioli as part of the paper’s wide-ranging investigation into Amazon’s business practices. At the time, Mattioli, a longtime business reporter, had recently moved into the Amazon beat, her interest piqued by the corporation’s tentacular infiltration of nearly every aspect of American economic life. Now, four years later, she’s out with The Everything War, a new book-length examination of Amazon that explores everything from its rise to power to its lobbying efforts and the brewing backlash against it.

In this interview with Vanity Fair, edited for length and clarity, Mattioli and I spoke about the challenges of reporting on an infamously secretive and combative company, Amazon’s forays into political-influence peddling, its new foe in the Biden administration, and which candidate she thinks Amazon execs want to see back in the White House come January 2025.

Vanity Fair: What first got you interested in covering Amazon?

Dana Mattioli: I was The Wall Street Journal’s mergers-and-acquisitions reporter for six years, and in that role, my job was to cover which companies are buying other companies across industries globally. Something fascinating happened during my tenure in that role. It wasn’t just retail companies that were nervous about Amazon. I’d speak to the bankers, the lawyers, the CEOs, the board members at different companies, and they started talking about how they were worried about Amazon invading their industry. Over the course of those six years, those questions got louder. It started bleeding into other sectors where you wouldn’t even really think about Amazon at the time. The company seemed to stretch into every vertical and its tentacles kept spreading. It occurred to me that this was the most interesting company, but also one of the most secretive companies in business history. That to me seemed like such a fun challenge to dig in and see what was going on behind the scenes....


And 700 miles south, November 19, 2022:

Andreessen Horowitz and the Media: Yikes! (COIN) "Inside the nasty battle between Silicon Valley and the reporters who write about it."