business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

One of my favorite podcasts is "Pivot," hosted by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, largely because they bring a unique irreverence to the subjects they cover - technology, business, and culture - all mixed together for always provocative, sometimes NSFW conversations.

The podcast that dropped on Tuesday was typical - it covered a number of issues, including the troubles affecting Peleton and why it seems likely to be a takeover target (Apple?), tech lobby, stock market woes, and Mark Cuban's new online pharmacy business.  And then they did what they often do - Kara and Scott took a listener question.

This time, the question was from me.  (I first learned that they used the question when I started getting emails about it from members of the MNB community.  Proving, I think, that MNB readers largely are a discerning bunch.)

My query was one that would be familiar to MNB readers, but I really wanted to get their take on it:  If the government is going to regulate Amazon for using shopper data to decide which private label items to feature and how to prioritize them, shouldn't the government also regulate every bricks-and-mortar retailer (which is to say, almost every bricks-and-mortar retailer) that uses shopper data to decide which private label products to carry, how to promote them, and where to place them on shelves.  Sure, Amazon does it better and faster and smarter, but is it really any different from Walmart, CVS, Walgreen, Kroger, Albertsons, and so on and so on?

You can listen to the podcast here - it is the one entitled "Stock Market Blues, a Crypto Crash, and Mark Cuban's Pharmacy" - as well as pretty much anyplace you get your podcasts.

(It is worth listening to the whole thing … but if you are interested, I come in at about the 42-minute point.)

I think their points are excellent, and I wouldn't disagree with Galloway's position that behemoth companies need to be broken up because they are are taking up so much oxygen that smaller companies cannot find the air to survive, much less thrive - the ecosystem will be healthier, he suggests.  I'm okay with that … but I still am not sure you can impose one set of rules on a company like Amazon and others on smaller, bricks-and-mortar retailers.  I am sure, however, that someone is likely to try.