THE BLOG
10/13/2014 05:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Amazon: Broadband to Broadway

2014-10-13-amazonlogo.jpg

Digital is everything... but not everything is digital.

Those who have followed my Ramble know this is my mantra and soap box to expose what I have labeled digibabble -- that is, the use of digital ideas, terminology or positioning to associate decidedly nondigital activities, places or services with technology beyond the obvious, and the obvious being that technology touches, enhances and enables everything we do.

I have written about Warby Parker opening stores because, in the words of its founder:

We launched and the company took off like a rocket ship. We had to suspend our home-trial program because we ran out of inventory. People started calling and asking: 'Can I come to your office to try on some styles?' We were working out of our apartment. So we invited people over. That was our first foray into [brick-and-mortar]. It showed us that we could create really special experiences with individuals when we meet them in person.

I have started to follow a fairly new UK-based e-tailer (Lyst) because they understand that shopping is a human activity, not an algorithm: "A fashion purchase should never be exclusively search-based -- there also has to be an element of serendipity for the shopping experience to really resonate."

And as Amazon has discovered, great content has nothing to do with Big Data or anything else that is technologically digital:

It's not like you can come in on Tuesday and the computer says: 'Doot, doot, doot. Here are the shows you are going to do...' you have to use judgment as well. Roy Price, Head of Amazon Studios

And yet, analysts, media and investors continue to insist on linking technology to everything -- no matter what it is -- but not everything is digital. Mostly I would argue to monetize and support overstated valuations.

The latest is Amazon's announcement of its real estate dealings in New York. Months -- years -- ago, I wrote about their need to expand physically, not just digitally.

They need warehouse space -- I imagine for same-day delivery. Work out the cost of that business model, if you wonder about their profit. They need office space, and the bet is on for a store as well -- as in one you walk into and actually handle the merchandise (something else I predicted way back when).

Now all of that is fine and good (except for the business model), but why is it being reported in the tech news, commented on by tech analysts, treated like it's really some kind of digital breakthrough? GIVE ME A BREAK.

Digibabble.

In fact, some of the pundits must be having near-nervous breakdowns as, rather than getting more virtual, they seem to be getting more actual.

Look, I don't mean to bash them but they are just too easy a target and too much of a symbol of what's wrong with how we view the world we live in.

I am tired of the digital discussion -- get over it. Digital is everything, but not everything is digital.

We have so much to do to change the world. Digibabble is holding us back.

The true power of technology is getting lost in our need to rationalize everything as technology, when it's the human connection that creates the exponential boost. Listen:

Take, therefore, what modern technology is capable of: the power of our moral sense allied to the power of communications and our ability to organize internationally. That, in my view, gives us the first opportunity as a community to fundamentally change the world. - Gordon Brown

Now imagine Amazon powered by a moral sense and not just a need to justify a brick-and-mortar lease.

What do you think?