Alex Kantrowitz Wrote the Book on Facebook and Other Titans
BuzzFeed senior technology reporter Alex Kantrowitz says he’s proud of his first book, Always Day One, published last month in hardcover and online. Always Day One explores management attitudes and techniques that keep Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft on top (Apple not so much, due to its secrecy, Alex says).
“These companies lead very differently,” he tells SWMS. Though these titans may have a head start in these techniques, Alex predicts that “the playing field will level” as time moves on.
The book’s title comes from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s philosophy that, each day, Amazon must behave as if it’s the company’s first day in business, with lots to do and no taboos.
A key concept in the book is the tech giants’ use of AI and automation to move from the “knowledge” era to the “invention” era. Until now, organizations spent most of their time and energy doing a better job of whatever the job is. Call it optimizing. Because of the tech giants' exposure to core technology -- and the companies' inherently technical culture -- they have established themselves as invention centers like few others.
The book’s guiding premise: the smart will get smarter — but others can emulate the smart behaviors that Alex has ferreted out.
Alex drew crystal-clear word pictures throughout the book. Students of narratives will enjoy the beginning of Chapter 2: Alex sat in on a four-hour meeting in which a Facebook learning-development executive “drilled the group on the fundamentals of delivering feedback within Facebook.” You were there.
The book is economically edited at a bit over 200 pages. Unfortunately, graphics were scarce in Always Day One, photos non-existent. That’s a flaw considering the visual age we live in, but readers will find that Alex’s gifted writing keeps things interesting.
The pandemic made Alex a victim of circumstance: he couldn’t promote his book in New York, Seattle and Philadelphia as he had planned, nor could he report news for BuzzFeed from home because he had used 30 days of PTO to promote his book. On the plus side, Kara Swisher interviewed Alex for the Recode/Decode podcast. Author David Kirkpatrick interviewed Alex (along with Bloomberg's Sarah Frier, who has a new book about Instagram). And then there are the Amazon book reviews — not quite two dozen so far.
Here's what Alex had to say about dealing with PR pros:
My experience dealing with the PR teams at the tech giants was pretty positive. I was straightforward with them about the book from the beginning, and they heard me out and offered deep access that I balanced with reporting outside official channels. As far as I know, this is the first book that Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have all participated in together. In fact, it's the first time Amazon has participated in a book since The Everything Store that published early last decade. In our conversations, I made clear I was coming in to report the truth, without an agenda, and they trusted me. The product was a book that tells their story in great depth and is filled with surprises.