Amazon and Alibaba Diverge, Podcast Debuts, Shame-Faced Analysts

March 17, 2017, 2:07 PM UTC

I had a trains-planes-and-automobiles day Thursday (minus the trains), so I thought I’d share three things that caught my eye this week and wish you a happy weekend.

* The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is expanding its global shipping program by offering airborne delivery services to its sellers in China. This is a shot across the bow of Chinese incumbent Alibaba, which takes a totally different approach to logistics. Whereas Amazon is leasing planes to ensure its access to equipment needed to move goods, Alibaba has organized a network of shippers it does not own. It’s an example of diametrically opposed strategies: vertical integration for Amazon versus an “asset-light” platform for Alibaba. These two largely stay out of each other’s way. Where they don’t will be fun to watch.

* Adweek says America’s foremost man of letters on technology and other matters, Walter Isaacson, is getting into the podcast dodge. Walter typically does things right, and he’s doing this right too: He’s beginning his podcast about digital transformations with financial support from Dell Technologies. Isaacson—a friend and mentor to me as well as the former top dog at Time magazine—has likely forgotten more about this topic than most of us will ever learn. His biography Steve Jobs and his following book, The Innovators, make him perfect for the role, and I predict this podcast will be a delight—and informative too.

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* I relived my many years covering financial markets when I saw news about a new study by two accounting professors at Florida International University that analyzes how research analysts talk on earnings calls with the companies they cover. The analysts ought to be ashamed of their sycophantic behavior, epitomized by the oft-repeated (and sexist) expression, “Great quarter, guys.” The paper counted some 3,000 instances of “great quarter” over a 10-year period, a sign of how much analysts, who are supposed to be representing their brokerage clients, suck up to management in the hopes of maintaining reliable access. It’s a weird system. But it’s not the only one.

Have a great weekend.

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