Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher on How Amazon Could Ride to the Rescue With Coronavirus Tests

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Hosted by Recode’s Kara Swisher and NYU professor Scott Galloway, the Pivot podcast from our parent company’s Vox Media Podcast Network covers the biggest stories in tech, business, and politics every Tuesday and Friday. Intelligencer is going to share the best stuff from an episode each week.

Weeks after the global coronavirus outbreak arrived in the United States, tests for COVID-19 are still painfully difficult to come by. On the latest episode of Pivot, Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher discuss one possible solution suggested by a savvy listener: What if Amazon secured an abundance of test kits and sold them at a discount as an introduction to Amazon Care, the health-care service it recently rolled out for employees in Seattle?

“That’s genius,” Swisher said. At this point, it’s clear that the “government isn’t going to get this done,” she said. “Why go through this antiquated system of going to your doctor? Something like this, where they deliver it — apparently you just have to do a swab in your nose — and make it happen faster. I think that’s a great idea.”


Tech in the time of COVID-19, congressional antitrust hearing and Google Search, PLUS a listener asks: Could Amazon Care roll out COVID-19 tests?

Pivot is produced by Rebecca Sananes. Erica Anderson is the executive producer. It is also now on YouTube.

Meanwhile, in Washington this week, Congress held antitrust hearings that put Google Search under the microscope. After “so many head fakes around Washington,” Galloway is genuinely excited about what lawmakers are saying. Senator Amy Klobuchar has a “bill to limit exclusionary conduct where a big company locks out smaller competitors,” Swisher said. And the bipartisan pair of Senators Richard Blumenthal and Josh Hawley are pushing Attorney General William Barr to examine Google’s dominance in search.

After these hearings, and with the next president, regardless of who it is, likely to address tech monopolies, Swisher feels confident that change is coming: “There’s a lot of things happening by different groups, and eventually it will coalesce around something, whether it’s the FTC, whether it’s Senator Klobuchar, whether it’s Senator Hawley and Senator Blumenthal. I do think it will coalesce.”

Here are Kara and Scott on:

How Private Industry Can Help With the Coronavirus Outbreak

Kara: There’s nothing wrong with applying a private-company solution if it can be done right. I think for Amazon, this would be a win, to be involved in this. And it would work with Amazon’s distribution system and its ability to reach people. I think there are all kinds of private solutions to this.

Scott: Take the supply chain of Apple. Take the CRM technology of Salesforce. Take the technology and software and interface of Microsoft with Teams, their video conferencing technology. Take the fulfillment network of Amazon, and let’s get on this shit. When the Germans rolled into Poland and Slovakia, we went to Maytag and said, “Hey, can you build B-19s?” They said, “You know we can.” I think this is that opportunity for those guys.

On Antitrust Hearings on Capitol Hill 

Kara: On Tuesday, the Senate held a subcommittee hearing on antitrust with Google Search, which is being accused of boosting their own products and making it difficult for competitors like Yelp to gain traction. At the hearing, Yelp’s policy head, Luther Lowe, testified that Google physically demoted non-Google results, even if they contained information with higher-quality scores. Others, such as Sonos and PopSockets, have been talking about this. Meanwhile, Amy Klobuchar announced a bill to limit exclusionary conduct where a big company locks out smaller competitors, among other changes to antitrust law. The bill increases a burden of proof on monopolies to prove they’re not suppressing competition, discourages courts from granting immunity from antitrust enforcement. Then Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, who will sit on the antitrust committee, urged Attorney General William Barr to examine Google’s dominance. What do you think? We’re in the midst of the coronavirus thing, but people are not going to forget that we have these issues around antitrust.

Scott: Kara, I’ve been so excited. I feel like there’s been so many head fakes around Washington saying, “Okay, we’re getting serious this time,” whether it’s the FTC or the DOJ announcing special committees. There’s just been so much stuff, and I just feel like a jilted lover every time.

Kara: Really? You feel like a jilted lover?

Scott: Disappointed. That pretty much describes my love life. Anyway, look, Senator Klobuchar, she has tremendous substance. I think she represents Minnesota well. That is, we speak softly and carry a big legislative agenda. She is a fantastic legislator.

Kara: She does know how to do bills. She’s a bill lady. She does bills. All this aside, what are they going to do? This bill by Klobuchar, I thought was really interesting. They’ve talked about this. There are lawyers at the Justice Department working on it. But, again, jilted lover Scott Galloway, what’s going to happen? How can it move forward? Where do you imagine? Give me an idea of where you think it’s going to move forward.

Scott: Basically, Sonos and Yelp and all these other guys that rightfully are saying, “Monopoly abuse is putting us out of business,” they’ve shown up to a gunfight with a squirt gun. They’re going to get a gun. They’re going to say, “All right. You will now have purchase in courts. These companies are no longer immune. They’re no longer considered nascent technology companies that have some sort of blanket immunity from these types of cases.”

How the Crisis Would Look Under Other Presidents

Scott: If Barack Obama was president — even if we had screwed up, even if the CDC and testing had gotten it wrong — I think people like Angela Merkel or people in South Korea, where they’re testing 10,000 people a day … I think these leaders would be inclined to reach out to our president and say, “Hey boss, I’m going to help you. I have your back.” I don’t think anyone’s looking to help us right now.

Scott: The Trump administration has still not acknowledged the issue. Demonizing immigrants, making it about other people, intimating that it’s other people bringing it here, that we’re somehow doing this better. George W. Bush would have never said that. Whatever you think of George W. Bush, he would have been on the phone with our allies saying, “We screwed up here; what can you do for us? How can you help us?” He wouldn’t be demonizing these people.

On a Proposed Fiscal Stimulus

Scott: I don’t even think we should be thinking about fiscal stimulus. The best thing we can do for the economy right now is not figuring out fiscal stimulus, it’s figuring out how we get out ahead of this thing by seconds, by minutes, and it’s all about testing, as far as I can tell. It seems like that is really the gating issue here that presents the biggest risk, because we just don’t know. We just don’t know.

On Teaching Online Classes During School Shutdowns 

Scott: I think for the first two or three classes, at least, [the instructor] has to have what I’d call your Goose. In Top Gun, you had Goose in the back working on the missile firing, working on the technology such that Maverick could focus on flying the plane. You need your Goose for the first several sessions. You need a tech person, because the majority of us don’t have a background in technology.

Scott: [The instructor] needs to absolutely overanimate. You need to pretend you’re reading your 8-year-old a bedtime story. That level of animation needs to happen to your teaching, because there’s an intensity and an electricity to person-to-person that you lose, and you have to compensate for it by being animated, and loud.

Kara: Jazz hands.

Scott: Hundred percent.

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Galloway and Swisher: Can Amazon Help With COVID-19 Tests?