Dog Bites Man, Retail Edition

I was too busy last week to link to this story by Dana Mattioli in The Wall Street Journal: Inc. has adjusted its product-search system to more prominently feature listings that are more profitable for the company, said people who worked on the project — a move, contested internally, that could favor Amazon’s own brands.

Late last year, these people said, Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search — as it had for more than a decade — the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company.

I’m all for scrutinizing big tech companies, and there’s a lot to scrutinize about Amazon. But “retailer promotes profitable store brand products” is not a story. A good story would be if you could find a retailer who didn’t do this. Calling a proprietary algorithm a “secret algorithm” is a not-so-subtle way of implying there’s something nefarious going on here, when there isn’t. Amazon is not an ostensibly neutral search engine — they’re a retailer.

Monday, 23 September 2019