Something for nothing: Apple and Amazon's new economy

All for us, none for you -- that seems to be the basis behind Apple and Amazon's latest moneymaking plans

Something for nothing: Apple and Amazon's new economy

This journalism racket is tough, so I had to act fast a couple of days ago when I heard that Elop was on the outs. But before I could publish anything, I first had to get my hands on hard evidence. Hey, I’m a professional (technically).

I managed to inveigle a free economy seat to Elop’s locale by booking myself as Spy Drone Operator 7 of 9 on a semisecret FBI surveillance flight. Locating Elop’s house required flashing the local mail carrier a blowtorch, and when I got there, I was welcomed by a 6-foot chain link fence adorned with a picture of an angry-looking doggie. Look, if I paid attention to signs with little pictures on them I’d never find a decent parking space, and once over the fence (risking my chance at offspring in the process), I quickly found his garbage cans and started the time-tested reporter’s dumpster dance.

I was looking for anything that might corroborate the tip: a few crumpled resumes, a tear-stained Microsoft campus parking pass, a picture of Satya with a lot of bullet holes in it, something. But no -- Elop’s trash was so bare I might as well have been a New York state trooper looking for prison escapees.

As the realization hit, Elop’s wife popped out the backdoor and for some reason seemed upset to see me. I tried showing my press pass and bluffing my way out, but she insisted on introducing me to the subject of the fence-mounted canine cartoons: Hitler and Attila the guard dogs. So much for proof -- I’m dedicated to reporting the news, but ever since I met Zuckerberg’s bionic attack mutt the Zucker#$%^er, I no longer do dog bites and corroborated investigative journalism. However, I do running and thoughtful conjecture. It isn’t the first scoop I’ve lost to a healthy aversion to mutt bites, and it won’t be the last.

Apple News lends a helping hand

Yeah, journalism is a difficult game, and maybe I’m getting a too old for it. Fortunately, both Apple and Jeff Bezos may have job opportunities for me, and with two selfless entities like that on my side, I’m sure I don’t have to worry.

On Apple’s part, the company is launching its Apple News service in a few months, so it’s been sifting the InterWebs feverishly in recent weeks looking for “appropriate content.” My stuff is prime fodder as long as I meet three basic requirements, according to an analysis done by BBC News:

  1. Don’t write anything negative about Apple’s products, policies, executives, or Tim Cook’s wardrobe. (Who, me? I would never.)
  2. Don’t ask for a share in revenues after Apple sells ads next to whatever writings it's scraped from my blog, but be sure to indemnify Apple if anything I say ticks off someone else badly enough that they sue both me and Apple. (Who, me? I would never.)
  3. Don’t explicitly not accept these and several other mind-bending Terms of Agreement that were sent via email to a bunch of bloggers and newsies this past week.

In case that’s not clear, if you received one of those emails (apparently even if you didn’t, according to some legal reasoning), Apple figures you’re bound by these terms as long as you don’t actively opt out. Thus, it can go ahead and scrape your content, redistribute it, and pocket any ad revenue it gets from that transaction without sharing the profits with you. If you say something actionable, it’s entirely on you, not on Apple. Therefore, I now have a writing gig at Apple News, though after reading the ToA, it’s seems more like an unpaid internship complete with a round of hazing administered by an overly enthusiastic cricketeer.

All in with Amazon

Fortunately, I still have Jeff Bezos to fall back on. See, back in late 2013, Jeff announced Amazon would soon ship packages direct to your front door within 30 minutes, using a future Amazonian armada of flying drones. A stubborn cuss, Bezos refused to back off the claim and Amazon has been chasing this nightmare ever since. Jeff’s a smart robber baron, and as such, he’s not about to put all his eggs in one quadcopter. Instead, he’s come up with a contingency plan: No need to build a buzzing drone armada because he already has one -- us.

According to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, Amazon’s internal project “On My Way” should be renamed “On My Way to Help Jeff Because Apparently I Don’t Have Anything Better to Do.” It aims to conscript all of us low-rent traveling mortals into acting as Amazon’s delivery service. All we need to do is download the On My Way app, preferably onto a mobile device more popular than the Fire Phone, and wait, fidgeting with excitement at the honor of joining Amazon’s distribution chain. Eventually, it brings the glorious news that someone needs the "Air Bud 8" DVD delivered right now and the address happens to be on the way to an unimportant place on our itinerary, like a doctor’s appointment or a bail hearing.

From there, we drive over to a designated Amazon distribution center, pick up the package, deliver it to its eager owner, and voilà! The owner is happy, Jeff is happy, and we’re only an hour or so late to whatever rendezvous we had scheduled, the consequences of which are a small price to pay for the aforementioned Amazonian happiness.

Unfortunately, if this is really supposed to be my future career -- don’t get me wrong, Jeff, I am so excited at the thought -- I’m going to need more than the dollar or two Reuters reported you’re planning on paying per item. That doesn’t even cover gas or the time I’ll undoubtedly spend standing in line behind 100 other rubes at your distribution center waiting for you to bring out Joe Pup’s emergency DVD care package. It’s more profitable for me to open an On My Way account using Executive Editor Doug Dineley’s name and drive off with whatever goodies you bring me and re-sell them later on eBay.

But don’t worry, Doug, I would never.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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