October 24, 2017 Last Updated 8:30 am

Amazon Wine to shut down, as complicated, outdated US laws prove hard to overcome

Morning Brief: Facebook appears to be testing a scheme in six countries in which publishers may be forced to pay to have their content seen inside the reader’s News Feed

The US has two major hang-ups that it just can’t seem out grow: sex and alcohol. From 1920 to 1933 the US experimented with a prohibition on alcohol that only led to widespread lawbreaking and actually increased drinking among women. The male-only saloon became the speakeasy then the bar.

Today, under Republican control of the Congress, White House and judiciary, we see an attack on women’s reproductive health including birth control. For some reason, white men want to return to an era where any sex could lead to pregnancy How that benefits anyone is only known inside the minds of our neanderthal representatives.

Returning to booze, however… Amazon has learned that US alcohol laws remain absurd and arbitrary. One has to use an abnormally large amount of brain cells to figure out which states wineries and retailers can ship to, and how to circumvent those laws. In Illinois, for instance, the legislature was convinced by in-state retailers and distributors to pass a law a few years ago preventing retailers from outside the state to ship into Illinois. All that this accomplished was to make out-of-state retailers ship through third parties.

Amazon has tried its hand at selling wine but now that it owns Whole Foods has decided to throw in the towel now Amazon Wine, though it will continue to sell wine through Amazon Fresh, Prime Now and Whole Foods Markets

I checked out Amazon’s effort at Amazon Wine a few times and found it wanting, but only because wine is best sold by knowledgeable retailers who can offer personal advice and hopefully have tasted the wine themselves. But as long was the US continues to tolerate the hypocrisy of the religious right wine selling will continue to be a complicated, and mostly local business.

Recode, Jason Del Rey:

Amazon is shutting down its Amazon Wine business in the wake of the Whole Foods deal

The decision to shut down the business appears to stem from so-called tied house laws, which prohibit retailers that sell alcohol from accepting payments from suppliers to advertise their goods. Wine suppliers pay fees to Amazon to sell through Amazon Wine, while Amazon also acts as a retailer of wine through Whole Foods and increasingly other services, like Prime Now.

Amazon had been lobbying to alter these laws, but it looks like they’ve realized it wasn’t going to happen. And it is quite likely that Whole Foods’ wine-selling business dwarfs that of Amazon Wine. Sounds, then, like an easy choice.

Wine Spectator, Aaron Romano:

Amazon Halts Online Wine Sales

Amazon’s wine forays began in 2000, when the Seattle-based company invested $30 million in a failed wine venture with Wineshopper.com; it tried again in 2009, but was met by regulatory barriers against shipping alcohol.

Beginning in 2012, Amazon simplified its model, acting as a conduit for wineries. They don’t manage the fulfillment or shipping of wine; instead they require that all wineries that apply to sell through the website have their own necessary licenses and permits to sell and ship wine. Amazon acts as a marketing platform for exposure, collecting a 15 percent fee on every order.

The decision to shut down seems to be due to so-called “tied-house laws,” which prohibit an alcohol merchant from receiving payments from other suppliers to advertise their goods.

So, Facebook may make publishers pay to have their content seen, huh? Not a big surprise. That anyone would trust Facebook to begin with always seemed to me to be foolish. But publishers never learn, and their quest for a cheap, easy way to create and distribute content never ends.

Guys, publishing is a DIY business. You either love it or hate it. But it remains something you do yourself. Stop looking for an easy solution. In fact, it is the doing it yourself that is the great joy of publishing.

Business Insider, Alex Heath:

Facebook is testing burying posts from media outlets in a separate News Feed — unless they pay

Facebook is testing a change that could have dramatic effects on media organizations and other businesses that use its network to distribute their stories and other information…

…In six countries, Facebook has removed all posts published on Facebook Pages from its users’ main News Feed and moved them to a separate and less prominent “Explore” section in its app. The change leaves the main News Feed reserved for only posts from friends, ads, and individual posts that organizations operating Facebook Pages pay to promote.

Recode, Kurt Wagner:

Publishers might have to start paying Facebook if they want anyone to see their stories

Facebook says the point is to give people two feeds: One with stuff from their friends and family, and the other from businesses and publishers. Here’s the full statement from Facebook:

“With all of the possible stories in each person’s feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful. People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages. To understand if people like these two different spaces, we will test a few things, such as how people engage with videos and other types of posts. These tests will start in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. We have no current plans to roll this out globally.”

Though Facebook claims it doesn’t plan to roll this out globally right now, the fact that Facebook is even testing it should be terrifying for publishers, almost all of whom rely heavily on Facebook’s News Feed for distribution.

This week should put an end to many questions regarding whether independence will be declared in Catalunya, and it will begin a new phase of the crisis in Spain as the Spanish government votes to end the autonomy of the region, and the Catalan parliament meets to decide once and for all if it is, indeed, declaring independence.

Now, the crisis is becoming also a media crisis, as Spain will be taking control of the Catalan public media, and some in media may fight back to prevent it.

Catalan News, ACN:

Possible takeover of Catalan public media condemned by journalistic organizations

The Catalan Association of Journalists also released a statement the very day that Article 155 was proposed by the Spanish president, on Saturday October 21. In it, it writes that “it strongly condemns the intervention” of public media including TV3, Catalunya Ràdio, and the ACN news agency, and describes it as “an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression and information.” The organization defines itself as a “public law corporation that gathers more than 4,000 professionals.”

They further define this offensive as a “direct attack on democracy and freedom of expression,” which they note is a “fundamental right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” They further state that the intervention in public media is “a violation of the right to information” which they say is a “basic pillar for democracy.”

Photo: Napa Valley by Rebeca Anchondo, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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