business news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg writes about how Amazon's annual holiday toy guide, which purports to offer a "thoughtfully curated" list of products that customers would want, is in fact a list of products that often have been bought and paid for by toy manufacturers that spend millions just to be considered for the list.

"Amazon sells Holiday Toy List sponsorships for as much as $2 million, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. The more sponsors pay, the more products they can nominate to be on the list and the more prominently their own products will be featured on the popular website. Amazon aimed to sell at least $20 million in sponsorships for this year’s list, the documents show. Amazon also published a summer toy list with lower sponsorship prices."

Amazon defends the practice as being like what traditional retailers do when they charge manufacturers to be included in ad circulars: "Every product on our annual Holiday Toy List, which features family gift ideas from new releases to customer favorites, is independently curated by a team of in-house experts based on a high bar for quality, design, innovation and play experience. We source product ideas from many places, including our selling partners who have an opportunity to nominate their best toys for the season and increase visibility of those toys."

Bloomberg goes on: "Parents looking for independent recommendations can turn to toy lists produced by third-party reviewers such as Toy Insider and Toys, Tots, Pets & More (TTPM). But in an era when customer reviews can be gamed and social-media influencers push products without always disclosing that they’re getting paid, consumers sometimes struggle to distinguish between objective online recommendations and paid promotions."
KC's View:
It is true that this isn't different from what most retailers do, but in some ways this is the most problematic of the arguments. I'd suggest that Amazon has consistently presented itself as being not like other retailers … and that one of the things it needs to do is occasionally rise above standard operating procedures and continue carving out a uniquely consumer-driven position.

It needs to be different. Not the same. Right?