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Marketing, Tech

Amazon’s First Press Release: 15 Lessons

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We all know about Amazon’s push for innovation and the clarity of communication that they have developed. But was this focus on communication a recent adoption or could you find it in one of their first public communication – Amazon’s first press release? Let’s find out.


Amazon Communication Culture

The Amazon communication culture is a well-circulated body of knowledge. These include popular rules like the “Two Pizza” and “No Powerpoint rules.”

Press Release

I dug into Amazon’s press release archives to see if I could find other examples of remarkable communication. What I found was a remarkable clarity that echoed right from their first release.

First, let’s read through their original release which is reproduced from their public archives. Read Amazon’s first press release here.


World’s Largest Bookseller Opens on the Web

October 4, 1995 at 12:00 AM EDT

Amazon.com Offers Million+ Titles, Orders Pour In from 45 Countries in First 4 Weeks

SEATTLE, WA (October 4, 1995) — Amazon.com, the business and domain name of the most voluminous new retailer on the Internet, has thrown open its virtual doors to offer the largest collection of books in the world to anyone with World Wide Web access. The Seattle-based company currently offers more than one million different titles, 40 times more than typical mall bookstores, and more than 5 times as many as the country’s largest book superstores. The retailer can be found at http://www.amazon.com/.

At a time when pundits are questioning the advantages of shopping online, Amazon.com offers consumers a shopping experience that would be impossible without the Internet. A physical bookstore as big as Amazon.com is economically impossible because no single metropolitan area is large enough to support such a mammoth store. Were Amazon.com to print a catalog of all of its titles, it would be the size of 7 New York City phone books.

Browsers on the World Wide Web have been quick to recognize Amazon.com’s unique value. In just its first four weeks of operation, the company shipped books to customers in all 50 states and more than 45 countries.

From science fiction to cooking to literary fiction and the latest computer and technical publications, Amazon.com strives to offer every book in print. Amazon.com discounts all but the most obscure titles 10–40 percent from the list price. “Our motto is ‘If it’s in print, it’s in stock,’” Amazon.com President Jeff Bezos says.

A powerful, yet easy-to-use search engine makes it possible for customers to find titles after a few minutes of searching, without ever leaving their desks. Instead of hours chasing down phone numbers and driving all over town to specialty bookstores, customers order online and books are delivered directly to their doors via UPS or Airborne Express.

The company also offers free subscription to its “Eyes & Editors” personal notification service, which enables customers to register their interests in authors, subject categories, or particular titles. Whenever a new book of interest is published, Amazon.com automatically sends the customer an e-mail message to notify him or her of the book’s availability.

In addition, Amazon.com allows readers to share their thoughts on particular books and exchange ideas with other readers around the world on its users’ reviews page.

Amazon.com is the brainchild of Wall Street wunderkind Jeff Bezos. “We are able to offer more items for sale than any retailer in history, thanks entirely to the Internet,” he says. “If you’re a reader and shopping from your keyboard, and hundreds of thousands of discounted items appeal to you, then we might interest you.”

World Wide Web surfers and administrators have greeted the presence of Amazon.com with applause. Netscape and Yahoo have each included Amazon.com in their “What’s New” and “What’s Cool” lists, effectively trumpeting its arrival to any user who clicks the button to see the list.

Postings from individual users have ranged from comments on the impressive depth and breadth of Amazon.com’s inventory to a light-hearted “I gotta stay away from there or I’ll go broke!”

Amazon.com operates from headquarters in Seattle, Washington. The company maintains a staff of programmers, editors, executives and all-around book lovers. The company can be reached on the Web at http://www.amazon.com/, or by phone at (206) 622–2335.


Amazon's first press release - clarity in communication
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Learnings from Amazon’s First Press Release

1. Title

World’s Largest Bookstore

A clear and bold headline. It has authority written all over. Even if you do not read the rest, you know that Amazon.com is big.

2. Descriptor

Million plus titles. Orders ‘pour’ in from 45 countries.

Clearly explains and supports the title. It answers why it is the World’s Largest Bookstore. Again, if you stop the press release here, they have communicated what they have to, in two lines.

3. Accessibility

Thrown open it’s virtual doors — to anyone with world wide web access

A simple explanation that answers — Who is it for? This line breaks the boundary of countries and calls out to anyone with a computer and a connection. The whole world was their stage.

4. Reinforcement

Million+ titles — Most voluminous retailer — Largest collection of books in the world

Reinforcement at it’s best. Now that you have read the title, descriptor and know who it is for, it is important that you know why it is unique. They reinforce their size and listings throughout the first paragraph in various ways.

The order of reference is important. From smallest picture to the largest. Titles. Retailer. World.

5. Comparison

40 times more than typical mall bookstores — 5 times as many as the country’s largest book superstores — 7 New York City phone books

Being bigger can mean anything. With the internet being an unfamiliar world, Amazon draws our attention to everyday things and then scopes out the size, so that we remember.

Mall bookstores. Superstores. Phone books.

Wonderful isn’t it?

6. Trust

A shopping experience that would be impossible without the Internet

Amazon operates in the bigger ecosystem of internet businesses. With the dot-com bubble starting in 1994, it was important to create trust in the ecosystem as a whole. The press release not only advocates Amazon but also takes on the responsibility of advocating the internet.

This is especially important since their competitors were bookstores in the physical world.

7. A Frustrating World

Hours chasing down phone numbers — driving all over town

The release creates a grim reality of how the reader’s world is right now. Amazon.com banked on convenience and instead of diving straight into their features they story-tell their way by drawing a picture of current difficulties faced by the reader.

8. A Better World

Easy-to-use search engine to find titles — without ever leaving their desks — books are delivered directly to their doors

After showing a frustrating world the reader is in, Amazon.com opens the doors to a magical world. One where they do not even have to leave their desks. You order and they do everything after that.

This is a critical part of their release and the most important lesson. While communicating about a product show how you transform a boring world into an exciting, magical one.

9. Wide Range

Science fiction to cooking to literary fiction — computer and technical publications — obscure titles

At a time when Amazon was still used by technical users, the references to cooking and literary fiction enforce that it is for everyone. The use of ‘obscure titles’ suggests that they can get almost any book at Amazon.

10. Social Proof

50 states — 45 countries

It is not just ‘some’ states but the entire ’50 states’ that order from Amazon. Not only the U.S., but 45 other countries order from them, too.

This also reiterates the trust that readers can expect out of Amazon. If so many people are already using it, it must work.

11. Price Communication

10–40 per cent from the list price

I find it interesting that they did not open up their release with price as a lead differentiator. They held the reader’s hand and showed them the entire world of Amazon and then give the sucker punch — 10 to 40% off from list price!

They aped the book-buying experience. You go into a bookstore, glance through millions of titles, and when you are ready to order — surprise!

12. The Promising Future

If it’s in print, it’s in stock

They reinforce that what they are seeing is just the beginning. The simple motto introduces the captain of the ship, Jeff Bezos. Sharing the motto also creates a sense of belonging with the reader.

13. And, One More Thing

Free subscription of Eyes & Editors — Readers can share their thoughts on particular books and exchange ideas on its reviews page

Amazon here communicates how the relationship with the reader will be much richer and not just transactional. They will be their personal butler when it comes to books. When they are not looking, they will inform the reader when something of interest comes by.

Connecting the world of physical with digital, of books and people, Amazon shows how interesting reviews will be.

Something that a physical bookstore can not do. This further highlights the difference between physical and digital.

Side note: It is remarkable and funny at the same time on how the now-dreaded notifications were a desirable ‘free personal service’.

14. Credibility

Netscape and Yahoo — World Wide Web surfers greeting the presence of Amazon.com

Paragraph 9 showcases credibility. What better than getting endorsed from the then most familiar and trusted digital brands — Yahoo and Netscape?

15. A Neat Roundup

More items for sale than any retailer in history — shopping from your keyboard — hundreds of thousands of discounted items

Paragraph №8 rounds up the release succinctly. If you love reading then we have the widest range of books at discounted prices.

What else does anyone need?

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