Amazon's Media Strategy: Leak the Almost-as-Good News

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Jeff Bezos has clearly been taking lessons at the Steve Jobs School of Media Management

bezos-body.jpgAmazon's Kindle announcements knocked 'em down this morning, but let's take a quick look at how they set 'em up. And by 'em, I mean us, the media. Amazon got us good this time.

What Amazon did was leak news about the Kindle Fire that was almost as good as what they were about to announce. So, MG Siegler at Techcrunch got to play a little with the device and float a price point of $250. Then the name came out, the Kindle Fire. The next bit of news came from GDGT's Ryan Block who quoted a source saying the tablet hardware was based on the flailing RIM Playbook (and "pretty poor").

All of this information (aside from the value judgment) was roughly accurate, but slightly worse than the reality of Amazon's products. These reports helped calibrate people's (particularly bloggers') expectations a bit below what Amazon would actually announced. The Fire came out at $199 and its OS and web browsing have been an early hit. People are surprised by the speed of the machine and its promised "cloud-enhanced browsing." Crucially, too, Amazon held a very big punch -- the $79 Kindle -- even though they could easily have thrown it.

Tactically this morning, Bloomberg got to publish the Kindle Fire details just ahead of other media, mostly so that tech writers not at the live event could extract details for posts while the livebloggers were listening to Bezos. Amazon got its full narrative out there quick, but gave plenty of tweetable factoids just to the livebloggers. The whole thing was executed perfectly.

You may recognize this strategy, which has been perfected by a certain Cupertino company. Apple always seems to have some way of both putting information out there to get buzz going, but also holding back a key and buzzworthy set of details. It's clear that Amazon was taking notes.

Of course, it helps when you have a series of excellent announcements to make. But building up the right kind of expectations and then blowing them away is how good buzz gets made. And the thing is: these types of marketing maneuvers aren't incidental to the consumer gadget business, they *are* the consumer gadget business.

Image: Reuters.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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