Amazon Fail : Motrin moms Redux?
The title of this post and the idea of writing about the matter should be credited to Gus Fosarolli, a good friend of mine who has been reading on the matter. So what is Amazon Fail? So, it seems (from what I can read) that Amazon has shifted their algorithm for ranking of LGBT literature on the basis of supposed sexually-explicit content. But it appears as though heterosexually-themed content that actually DOES have explicit sexual depictions is NOT ranked lower.
UPDATE – Via Todd Sieling, who pointed me out to Darren Barefoot who in turn, pointed me out to Clay Shirky’s write up on the fact that #amazonfail wasn’t actually what the collective belief was (i.e. that it really was a technological glitch and not a human one). I am still on the fence on that one (simply because I don’t have the actual empirical evidence that it was actually that, a techno glitch), but I concur with Shirky (and Barefoot) in that we shouldn’t be so rushed to judge.
UPDATE – The Seattle PI indicates a response by Amazon saying it was an honest mistake, and that the algorithm caught a lot of books they did not intend to.
UPDATE – Now some guy who supposedly is a hacker is taking responsibility. And – somebody is denying that the troll’s code actually works. So, it seems Amazon Fail is still a supposed glitch.
UPDATE – I’m amending this post with early, not-fully-ruminated thoughts on PR crisis management. I have been pondering about #amazonfail – is it unreasonable to expect responses from Amazon, on Easter Weekend? A few responses I got:
From Kate Trgovac – Today, yeah, I think it is. Easter 2010 (or xmas 2009), probably not. Between this & Motrin Moms, it’s a new era.
From Tara Robertson – don’t do crisis mgmt PR, but their business is web based and this was a major mistake, they need to respond.
From Karen Cook – PR team undoubtedly huddling in Amazon’s boardroom crafting appropriate response.
From Nobilis Reed – The world is now 24/7. Why do you think @werner has a Blackberry?
Raul’s early lessons for PR crisis management, brand management and brand monitoring
Bear in mind, it’s 2009 and we live in a web-based era, let’s face it. Internet 24/7.
1.- DON’T deploy anything new (business, algorithm, process) without ensuring that you’ll have AT LEAST ONE, high-ranked individual with enough PR/tech savvy to be able to address potential backlashes.
2.- DON’T assume that a boiler-template email response will appease customers.
3.- DON’T assume that just because it’s a weekend or a holiday, you can get away with anything. As mentioned above, the Internet is 24/7, particularly because the business is web-based, as indicated above by Tara and Nobilis. I agree with Kate that we are in a new world. However, I do think that Amazon should have learned a lesson from the Motrin Mom’s case.
UPDATE # 2 – I’ve included an open letter to Jeff Bezos by Publishing Talk – Jeff Bezos is the CEO of Amazon (AMZN).
I’ve been tracking the Summize search for just a few minutes, but the pace at which the results are coming out is definitely out-pacing me. I concur with Gus. It seems as though we are witnessing another Motrin Moms in the making.
This is why crisis communications and PR/social media teams are so important – for when people screw up. As someone who fights for LGBT rights, I take issue with anything that denies basic rights and discriminates. I’ll have to read more to see whether that was the case with Amazon.
Anybody who knows more about the topic, feel free to drop a comment. In the mean time, here is the definition of Amazon Ranked (yes, it’s tongue-in-cheek)
1. To censor and exclude on the basis of adult content in literature (except for Playboy, Penthouse, dogfighting and graphic novels depicting incest orgies).
2. To make changes based on inconsistent applications of standards, logic and common sense.
UPDATE – Commenters on my blog have started to describe in more detail what is going on with the Amazon Fail. Thanks! Keep’em coming. Also, my friend Tara Robertson wrote about the fact, her post includes links to action (send an email to Amazon, sign a petition).
UPDATE – Mark Probst’s LiveJournal includes the response from Amazon – following quote directly from his blog
In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.
UPDATE – Morozov’s post on the politics of anti-corporate cyberactivism. As someone who conducts research on citizen activism (see my research blog), I (Raul) am always fascinated by these mobilizations. Now, the thing is – these mobilizations occur online, in the comfort of our homes/offices.