Tag Archives: online


Amazon’s ‘vanishment’ of LGBT literature from sales ranks spurs a realtime revolt via social media.

Amazon is in deep trouble with the online LGBT commmunity this Easter. The retailer has re-classified as ‘adult’, and removed sales rankings from, a range of books which includes Henry Miller, Anais Nïn, contemporary same-sex romances and young readers’ books which feature same-sex parenting. Cue uproar on social media, with hashtag #amazonfail top trending last night across the whole of Twitter.

Google ‘amazonfail’ for the developing story, or check this nice summary post from the National Post for background. Fittingly, we first heard of Amazon’s actions via author Hari Kunzru, on FaceBook (thanks for the tip!)

Amazon’s first statement claimed that the de-ranking was the result of a ‘policy decision’. However, as we go ‘to press’ (as making a fresh pot of coffee and curling back up in bed with the laptop is referred to, in blogging circles), the bookseller appears to have changed that position. Its updated statement is so tepid and vague (“There was a glitch with our sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed…”), that we’re guessing the PR agency has taken Easter off, leaving Amazon to crisis-manage for itself. Ouch. Would love to eavesdrop on that conference call tomorrow morning….

Although this story has been picked up by the US-based culture blogs and mainstream press, we’ve seen no mention of it ‘above ground’ in the UK. Maybe UK media journalists are also having a long lie in today, rather than doing their jobs?

Regardless of Amazon’s final response (which needs to be significantly more credible than its efforts so far), plenty damage has been done to the brand, amongst communities which know how to organise, and that understand the strength of collective action. A glimpse of that strength came last night, when, within a few short hours, a word-of-mouth googlebombing campaign successfully dislodged Amazon’s own definition of its precious sales ranking system on Google. An Amazon-critical alternative definition of Amazon Rank now tops search rankings in the US and UK.

Online, the ‘hacklash’ continues: there’s an open call out for an amazonfail logo, to replace Amazon widgets and links removed by site-owners in solidarity with the ongoing protests. Expect more creative activism in the same vein, over the coming hours and weeks. Until, in fact, Amazon actually comes clean, credibly and openly, about what, exactly, just happened. The longer that communication is delayed, the more damage will be done to the brand. Through social media, communities organise and engage in real-time. Brand-owners must respond likewise.

Whoever it was, a few years back, who said we should stop belittling people’s power by calling them ‘consumers’ and start respecting them as ‘amplifiers’, got it so right. We’re going to hunt his book down. But not on Amazon.

[UPDATE 13 April, 15:15. As of this writing, this post is top-ranked on Google UK search for 'amazonfail'. If Amazon and its PR agency do care about social media engagement, we're easy for them to find, and would love to hear from them.]

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Chrome, The Cloud, McCloud

Google explains its new browser, comic-book style

McCloud on ChromeGoogle has announced its launch of a ‘cloud computing’-focussed web browser, Chrome. Is this just what the world needs, or a sign that the Big G has jumped the shark? Hard to tell at this point, but they’re certainly pressing a lot of the right buttons with both product and announcement. Chrome is based on the WebKit open source renderer (same as Apple’s Safari), and the whole project is also Open, natch. The system’s architecture is, according to Google, designed with security and performance in mind.

And — most excellently exciting for alphanerds everywhere — Google has commissioned an explanatory online comic from the Tufte of comic design himself, Scott McCloud, which explains exactly What Chrome is All About. Perfect material for writers (such as yours truly) having their first latte of the day and in need of primo fresh bloggables. Now that’s how to market yourself online in 2008…

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The New News

Pew’s latest research on news consumption in the US.

The key bits:

A sizable minority of Americans find themselves at the intersection of these two longstanding trends in news consumption. Integrators, who get the news from both traditional sources and the internet, are a more engaged, sophisticated and demographically sought-after audience segment than those who mostly rely on traditional news sources. Integrators share some characteristics with a smaller, younger, more internet savvy audience segment – Net-Newsers – who principally turn to the web for news, and largely eschew traditional sources.

Net-Newsers are the youngest of the news user segments (median age: 35). They are affluent and even better educated than the News Integrators: More than eight-in-ten have at least attended college. Net-Newsers not only rely primarily on the internet for news, they are leading the way in using new web features and other technologies. Nearly twice as many regularly watch news clips on the internet as regularly watch nightly network news broadcasts (30% vs. 18%).

Net-Newsers do rely on some well known traditional media outlets. They are at least as likely as Integrators and Traditionalists to read magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and somewhat more likely to get news from the BBC.

So, in short, good news for those traditional operators — like CNN and the BBC — who have invested in developing their offerings into video and TV reporting. Also good news for heavy hitters such as The New Yorker – suggesting that good print journalism does, in fact, have a future.

There are also some worrying trends:

In spite of the increasing variety of ways to get the news, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased substantially over the past decade. About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998.

Believability ratings for national news organizations remain very low. If anything, believability ratings for major online news outlets – including news aggregators such as Google News and AOL News – are lower than for major print, cable and broadcast outlets.

Anyone interested in the media (hello?) can read the full report at Pew’s main site.

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Lame Toy

Mix and match bits of beasties.

lame toybst.jpgPicking up on the grown-up-toy trend, TDP Design have created a site where designers and users can mix and match a monster. There are already over 40,000 character combinations and they are asking for more submissions of arms, legs and heads.

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Microsoft Enters Search Ad Market

Playing catch-up with the likes of Google and Yahoo!, Microsoft unveils its own system for selling search-based advertising.

Currently, the ads on Microsoft’s MSN’s search engine have been sold by Yahoo! The company now intends that all of its ads will be sold in-house by Spring next year. Microsoft founder Bill Gates will demonstrate his commitment to online advertising as a sector when he opens the inaugural conference of the UK’s internet advertising industry next month (as reported in The Guardian).

Last year online overtook radio advertising in terms of overall share, reaching a level of nearly 4% in the UK – the Internet Advertising Bureau says it is on track to overtake the market size of outdoor by the end of 2007. Last year spending on ad searches, pop-ups and other forms of online advertising rocketed 62% year-on-year to hit £653.3m in 2004, from £407.8m in 2003.

The New York Times reports that the search-based advertising system to be used by MSN aims to improve on the services already offered by Google and Yahoo! by allowing marketers to target users based on their sex, age and location. Microsoft already owns a lot of demographic information on its users gleaned via services such as hotmail and its Passport identity service. Google and Yahoo! only allow a limited targeting of search ads by location, with Google arguing that it doesn’t need demographic data to direct its ads because Web searchers can directly indicate what they may want to buy through their keyword search queries. Tim Armstrong, vice president for advertising at Google, also plays the privacy card: “We are very heavy on user privacy. So our way of targeting advertising relies heavily on what we know about the content people are looking for.” Google already takes into account other factors such as the time of day and the geographical location of the user.

Microsoft also believes it has another advantage over Google: the building of relationships with web site owners, many of whom are users of its software and online services. But Google ads is already an appealing option for small businesses looking to raise their profile online in a cost effective way. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can achieve the same resonance with these entrepreneurs that Google has.

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Art-Blogging the News

A Dutch national newspaper is offering a regular online platform for visual artists to respond to the events of the day.

In recent months Nanette Hoogslag has been heading a small editorial team for the online version of the Dutch paper de Volkskrant to develop “Oog” (Eye), a new kind of online platform in which artists in sound and image are asked to respond, on a regular basis, to news and current affairs. Each week a new work will be displayed. As the project develops, all the works made for Oog will be archived and accesible. This week’s art is rather cute – oddly. Check it out at the Volkskrant site.

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