April 20, 2011

TOM FRIEDMAN, 1999: “Amazon.com is doomed.” Eventually, perhaps, like all the works of man. But most likely much later than The New York Times, whose business and editorial judgment has been inferior to Amazon’s in recent years. “Friedman’s claim that an ordinary citizen can replicate Amazon in his living room was laughably wrong, but there is a delicious irony in the fact that there is indeed one industry with respect to which Friedman’s dire prediction came true: Friedman’s own industry, journalism. It turns out that amateurs, many of whom have far more expertise with respect to business, politics, the arts–you name it–than Tom Friedman and other pundits with newspaper columns can, almost for free, turn out exactly the same product that Friedman does. Only better. . . . The Times has declined for a number of reasons, but one of the important ones is that citizen journalism turned out to be not just a viable alternative, but a superior alternative, to the myopia that Friedman and his colleagues represent. Friedman was perceptive enough to diagnose the problem that micro-competition could cause for Amazon (albeit incorrectly) but not perceptive enough to apply the same reasoning to his own industry. That fact speaks volumes about how much trust we should put in the pundit class, especially when it opines about business matters.” Read the whole thing.

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