In “Move fast and break (other people’s) things” (April 3, 2019), Dean Miller argues not for a preferred side of history, but a preferred time in history. Anytime pre-Internet will do.
Mr. Miller makes three points: (1) Craigslist is the cause of the decline of the newspaper industry because Craigslist stole classified advertising revenues; (2) Google and Facebook exacerbated the decline by stealing local newspaper content; (3) Amazon does not donate enough of its profits to Port Townsend. He concludes that we must limit our trade to local businesses and forgo the benefits of trading with large corporations (Amazon in particular). To do otherwise is to accelerate local economic decline. We must chose a side, pledging our loyalty and our dollars to local businesses and newspapers or face the consequences.
It is hyperbole at best, catastrophizing at worst.
Craigslist has prospered because it meets a need more effectively and efficiently than alternatives. Businesses and individuals can advertise on Craigslist faster, reach a larger audience, and have more control over the process, all for less than the cost of newspaper advertising. One might be better than the other in specific cases; I prefer having the choice.
Neither Google nor Facebook are in the business of creating content, and neither is dumb enough to run afoul of intellectual property laws by stealing copyrighted content from other sources.
Amazon’s failure to meet some unstated standard for philanthropy in Port Townsend is a non-sequitur. Amazon is under no obligation to distribute its after-tax profits to anyone other than its shareholders (I would guess there are a few among The Leader’s readership). Mr. Miller implies that the magnitude of Amazon’s profits gives Port Townsend (citizens? government?) a claim on these profits, but neglects to provide a basis for such a claim.
He also implies that these large, technology-based corporations, especially Amazon, are a threat to small businesses. These firms compete aggressively. But they cannot be successful unless they provide benefits that customers cannot get from other competitors.
Before castigating Amazon, consider the benefits to us who live far from urban centers. In minutes, Amazon provides access to countless products that would not be readily available from local merchants.
Competition between vendors on Amazon is intense enough to drive prices down. Delivery at my door saves me hours of time and gallons of gas for every trip to Sequim or Silverdale avoided.
Peter Drucker, the influential management theorist, wrote that the sole purpose of a business is to get and keep a customer. Local businesses that do this, day in and day out, will likely have little to fear from Amazon. The same holds for local newspapers.