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Amazon Looks More and More Like a Tilt-A-Whirl

I recently used the expression “whirling dervish” with my daughter—the reference was to the frenzied manner in which my wife and I were unpacking from a trip while the young lady of the manor sat immobile, staring into my iPad—and she asked what that was. I found myself unable to explain the expression quickly.

Now I think I’ve hit on a way to sum it up, though perhaps still not for my child. It is the recent behavior of Amazon.com and its CEO, Jeff Bezos. He and his company constantly are in motion, spinning up something new, exciting, and interesting. Consider:

* TechCrunch noticed that Amazon is creating a by-invitation-only “influencer” program for celebrities and others with large social-media audiences. The e-commerce titan will pay socially notable people an unspecified bounty to include links on Amazon for products they shill in their posts. This is equal parts smart and icky. Classic Amazon.

* Bezos, whose interests are wide and varied, disclosed he’ll dump $1 billion worth of Amazon shares to fund his rocket-ship company, Blue Origin. If Bezos didn’t have a well-documented love of rocketry and space since his childhood, one might conclude he was in a my-rocket-is-bigger-than-your-rocket spat with Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX. But these two are both dead serious. I visited Blue Origin’s cavernous manufacturing site in Kent, Wash., last year. It’s no joke.

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* Amazon signed a $50 million deal to stream NFL games. That’s $40 million more than what Twitter paid last year for a similar deal. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google’s YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook bid on the rights. What’s interesting about that is that sports rights are an advertising play for YouTube, Google, and Facebook, and while Netflix (which doesn’t do sports) is all about straight entertainment subscriptions, Amazon is packaging its exclusive content into its Amazon Prime service, a one-of-a-kind subscription offering.

Whirling, indeed.