Twitter Diversifies, Amazon Goes Private Label, and Transparency Works


Photo of Debra Lee, via The Cable Show

Twitter Expands Limit, Diversifies Board
 Twitter is diversifying, in two different but important ways. For one, it will stop counting photos and links in its 140-character limit (Bloomberg), making it possible to stuff more text into a still-recognizably-tweet format. It’s a smart way to make the service a bit more useful without alienating existing enthusiasts. On another front, in what we hope is part of a long-term attempt to get underserved voices heard at the top levels at the company, Twitter appointed Debra Lee, chairman and chief executive of BET Networks, to its board (NYT). Lee is the first African-American and the third woman to serve on the company’s board. This is a welcome move, although a recent report shows that diversity at the board level (everywhere, not just Twitter) still has a long way to go.

Amazon Finds a New Way to Dominate
 Amazon is going private-label. It is expanding the number of products it delivers under its own brands (WSJ) and getting into new businesses like perishable foods. The company has tried this before with electronic accessories (worked) and diapers (didn’t) but this is different. Amazon’s scale raises margins, and companies produce or distribute private-label products because the margins are higher than traditional retailing. Amazon’s control over the future of retail just got a bit tighter.

Transparency: It Makes Sense Inside Companies, Too
 The Wall Street Journal has a sturdy tick-tock covering CEO Renaud Laplanche’s final days at Lending Club before he was forced to resign (paywall). What turned the board against him most of all? His lack of transparency with them: He didn’t inform the board of an investment he made in one of Lending Club’s clients.

Tesla Takes the Human Approach
 As a contrast to Lending Club, it’s instructive to look at a statement Tesla has published in response to the Mercury News article on “The Hidden Workforce Expanding Tesla’s Factory.” It starts as standard corporate CYA talk but quickly elevates to, and this is a real quote, “All of that is fine legally, but there is a larger point.” The response acknowledges a problem and notes what it’s going to do to solve the problem. One can argue whether corporations are people, but it’s worth noting when a corporation speaks in a human voice. (Tesla is docked a point, though, for not pointing to Louis Hansen’s original article in its response; you can find it here.)

Holacracy Still Not Dead
 Wags have been publishing obituaries of the flat management style holacracy even before it was popularized by Tony Hsieh at Zappos. Hsieh has been open about his company’s challenges with the method, and it’s certainly not for all organizations (Medium tried it, then mostly dropped it). This Quartz article offers a comprehensive look at holacracy and serves as a useful, relatively unbiased primer for those new to the topic. But it doesn’t answer the provocative question in its headline Is Holacracy Dead? Instead, it hedges, calling holacracy “still a work in progress.” We think that means the answer is “no.”

Why Do Factory Workers Make More in Michigan Than South Carolina?
 The answer: Unions (FiveThirtyEight).

Photo of Debra Lee, via The Cable Show

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