Opinion: How a16z gamed the NYT Best Seller list

Entrepreneur and Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon recently released a book espousing the benefits of the blockchain, NFTs, and web3, entitled Read Write Own — and it’s getting mixed reviews.

From the highly critical Molly White complaining that “Dixon fails to identify a single blockchain project that has successfully provided a non-speculative service at any kind of scale,” to the more commendatory by David Z. Morris calling it “an optimistic read,” it’s safe to say Dixons literary efforts are dividing opinion.

However, regardless of how you feel about a16z, Dixon, or the future of web3, what’s clear is that the book did some serious numbers in its first week on bookshelves and via ebook sales. Indeed, the nonfiction title sold more copies this week than Britney Spears’ autobiography, The Woman in Me, and slightly fewer than bestselling author Donald L. Miller’s Masters of the Air, landing at number nine on the New York Times (NYT) Best Seller list.

Unfortunately, the revered ranking comes with a very serious caveat, namely that the NYT itself suspects that the title managed to get ranked by gaming the system.

A dagger next to your Best Seller listing suggests that all might not be above board.

Read more: Chris Dixon says a16z doesn’t sell its crypto tokens — portfolio disagrees

The list only adds a ‘dagger’ to titles it believes have, in some way, attempted to present more sales than real demand, a concept a16z is extremely familiar with.

Marketing isn’t enough

Dixon went on a massive marketing blitz in the lead-up to the public release of Read Write Own, appearing on podcasts like the NYT’s Hard Fork and a16z’s own show. Clearly, the push wasn’t enough.

The NYT states that including a dagger on the Best Seller list implies “institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases,” and that such a dubious distinction only comes after “proprietary vetting and audit protocols, corroborative reporting and other statistical determinations.”

While ensuring profits and positive results can easily be manipulated in financial markets, it’s nice to see that at least organic book sales are being monitored and, as usual, a16z is doing everything in its power to make things look far more optimistic and profitable than they actually are.

Congratulations to a16z and Chris Dixon — I hope it was worth it.

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