Jeff’s World and welcome to it

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:02 pm by George Smith

Seen on Craigslist today while looking for a job in Los Angeles County:

We are a literary marketing company that helps authors/publishers increase book sales.

We are looking for individuals who can boost the positive “Amazon book review” postings on selected titles. You will be given the reviews. No need to do any writing. The books are of all genres, but some are erotica so you should be fine with that. You must have an active Amazon account (meaning having purchased anything from there) and a computer with a unique I.P. address (no Kindles/phones, etc.).

Need a handful of people to post reviews on about 10 books/day (should take less than an hour total). You will be paid $5/book ($50 total/every day). Payment is by Paypal on a daily basis.

If legitimate, not a scam, the payment is a better wage than one can earn on Jeff Bezos’ Mechanical Turk digital sweatshop, which also features employers offering workers penurious amounts (anywhere from 0.1 cent to a penny a word) for reviews as commercial astro-turfing for the web. (Of course, it could just be more sharing economy sucker bait in which the worker posts phony reviews to Amazon and is never paid at all.)

Trivial statistics:

Number of workers killed in Empire of Bezos fulfillment houses
during 2013 shopping/holiday season: 2

Number of kidney stones suffered by Jeff Bezos while on vacation in Galapagos Islands over New Year: unspecified

And Andrew Leonard of Salon needed the New Yorker to be told this?

In this week’s New Yorker, George Packer employs 12,000 words to answer a huge leading question in the headline: “Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books????

The answer, as just about anyone will guess without even reading the argument to follow, is no. Amazon’s relentless, Wal-Mart-like price pressure on publishers, its monopolization of both the means of production and the distribution mechanism, and its ongoing annihilation of the very concept of a “printed??? book are all combining, argues Packer, to hollow out the traditional publishing industry. This will ultimately, concludes Packer, be to the detriment of the culture at large, as there will be no economic model capable of supporting the kind of serious fiction and nonfiction that takes years to gestate, research and craft.

Here is the New Yorker piece. It’s long. The message, now common, although very detailed: Amazon and Jeff Bezos are despised by book publishers. Bezos is not particularly interested in selling books, just in selling everything at the lowest price the market will bear. He wishes to out Wal-Mart Wal-Mart.

The practice is always the same. The use of the tools of software to pit all against all in the American economy, pressing pay, compensation, everything down. Amazon’s business is not unique, just its monopolizing and controlling market weight and the company, in respects much like Google, is trying to do everything including book publishing (which has been a failure [1]) as well as streaming music, video and tv production.

But with all the gatekeepers in publishing and content creation removed by Amazon’s creative disruption — editors and/or choosers, replaced by sifting and matching algorithms adjusted only by the thumbs up and thumbs down provided by customers, trolls and astro-turfed digital review, look at the wonderful things you get!

Like all these self-published novels, printed on demand or delivered for Kindle by Amazon!

The unique genre of electromagnetic pulse attack on America white survivalist romance fiction, set free from the literary dungeon run by the elitist editors in America’s old publishing houses!

Jeff Bezos brought in Business Insider’s Henry Blodget to educate the Washington Post’s journalists on the nature of web journalism. And, presumably, what works for Business Insider.

Which is nothing but clickbait.

Business Insider is a web-site/aggregation sink of “news,” almost all of it reprinted or regurgitated, usually very poorly, from somewhere else. It is safe to say it employs almost no journalists, if any. And the point is to produce the most pandering content using “workers” who do it for free or mostly so.

On Henry Blodget, from “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” in 2012:

In April 2011, Business Insider editor Henry Blodget put out an advisory to the PR world. He was drowning in elaborate story pitches and information about new services. He just couldn’t read them all, let alone write about them. So he proposed a solution: The publicists could write about the product launches of their own clients and Blodget’s site would edit and publish them … In Blodget’s overzealous drive to create traffic for his site, he didn’t mind misinforming. He didn’t care who wrote it as long as it got page views. He was willing to let PR and marketing professionals and people like me write about their clients — which he would then pass off as real news and commentary to his readers.

This is in line with the world of Jeff Bezos where the role of most people as workers is to be paid nothing or almost nothing for goods and services that pander to the whims of masses of consumers.

Getting Blodget, a former stock peddler for Merrill Lynch who was charged with essentially selling fraud by the SEC in 2003 and one of America’s millionaires on the basis of such, to lecture the Post’s editorial staff (Bezos now owns the paper) is reminiscent of billionaire Sam Zell foisting Lee Abrams on LA Times journalists as an “innovation” expert. Abrams made a fortune ruining FM radio with rigid and idiotic formatting that pandered only to advertisers and the lowest common denominator in audience.

(Indeed, it is a wonder that Bezos bought the Post. What does he like about journalism? It’s a legitimate question. Bezos never cooperates with journalists, the exception being 60 Minutes when it agreed to do publicity for his drone delivery fantasy, and is intensely secretive.)

Zell’s philosophy, if readers watched the videos from his time as owner of Tribune, particularly the one from the Orlando Sentinel, was to deliver to consumers what they wanted all the time, stories and pictures about puppy dogs, for instance, rather than expensive coverage of Iraq.

The Lee Abrams/LA Times relationship is another laugh-a-minute horror tale from the Zell era.

A small part of it, the end, is summarized at the LA Weekly:

When news hit Times staffers Friday that Abrams, a former radio industry guru who was the company’s “chief innovation officer,” resigned over a memo that included a spoof-newscast video of nude women titled “Sluts,” there were cheers in the newsroom …

We’re bummed. Frankly Abrams provided some of the most entertaining content to come out of Tribune, gems such as:

“We ARE in the age of the eye.”

“Imagine Newspaper CONTENT is a major artist. Currently they are performing in a old but reliable venue. What happens if the artist (Content) moves into a new super venue? Fans will love it–the music (content) will sound clearer…better seats…etc…If you create anew venue (look) and you do it RIGHT, people will love it.”

And who could forget:

“The front page is four large and visually stunning maps … ”

This is the video Abrams distributed in e-mail to LAT journalists.

The problem was in the implication that it, along with other videos in the e-mail, was the type of journalism/publishing the Times should be doing.

At the time, from the LA Times:

Tribune Co. Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams, who earlier this week sent a companywide e-mail that contained content deemed inappropriate for the workplace, resigned Friday.

The e-mail, the latest in a series of free-form jottings Abrams sent weekly to company employees in an effort to inspire a rethinking of print and broadcast conventions, included links to satirical video parodies of newscasts. One, which included profanity and nudity, he labeled “Sluts.”


[1]. The one place Amazon has run into a wall is in publishing. Credit people, small business book retailers and later big traditional bookstore chains, for that. Amazon started its own physical book imprint. It has been an example of epic fail, most generously occasionally described as of middling success.

Amazon’s titles have been kept out of many stores.

Around 2012, perhaps a bit earlier, Ed Park, an editor of mine at the Village Voice, went to work for Amazon as a literary editor, shepherding and selecting various works for the company.

A year or so ago I recall him using his Facebook news feed/timeline to promote a book by novelist Benjamin Anastas.

This was at the time the retailer boycott was just beginning to freeze out Amazon titles.

At the New Yorker, the feature on Amazon says of this:

Benjamin Anastas, a novelist who couldn’t find an American publisher for his third book, told a friend that he was going to publish his fourth, a memoir called “Too Good to Be True,??? with Amazon… finding no copies of his new book in most stores was akin to watching himself disappear, and Anastas said that he would think twice before publishing with Amazon again.

Amazon Publishing, which had been releasing mysteries and other genres in bulk, hoped that Kirshbaum would attract big-name authors and publish best-sellers. But top writers proved surprisingly loyal to their gatekeepers, and Amazon had to spend a lot of money on two dubious projects: a million dollars for “The 4-Hour Chef,??? by the self-help guru Timothy Ferriss, and eight hundred thousand dollars for “My Mother Was Nuts,??? a memoir by Penny Marshall, the “Laverne & Shirley??? star. In hardcover, Ferriss’s book has sold a fraction of the numbers of his two earlier self-help books; Marshall’s has sold seventeen thousand. Nearly all of Amazon’s other books have fared worse: “Actors Anonymous,??? a novel by James Franco, has sold fewer than five thousand. (Amazon claims to have sold many more copies of these titles as e-books.) In the past year, Amazon Publishing has barely been a presence at auctions, and several editors have departed …

The celebrities will always be all right, even when their material takes a bath. They’ve banked their bonuses.

For everyone else, Jeff Bezos has you covered. Get yourself over to Mechanical Turk.

The Empire of Bezos — from the archives.

Oh, and do please please read the posts on digital sweat-shopping again. They so aptly describe a flavor of the spray from our Culture of Lickspittle.

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