Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon Fail & the Twittersphere

Image Credit::  Bill Thompson
Crossposting:: ThickCulture

Twitter was a hotbed of activity this weekend.  There was the Mikeyy worm {See Tweets on the Mikey hashtag-#mikeyy} and now the word of AmazonFail is spreading & I'm sure attitudes are being formed.   TemporaryVersion has an overview of the AmazonFail fiasco.  From what I have been able to ascertain, Amazon created a policy of excluding "adult" content from some searches and best-seller lists.  When queried on this by a director of an erotic writers association, Amazon Member Service offered up this response::

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.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services Advantage
One of the issues is the definition of "adult content."  Those familiar with the MPAA rating system for films in the US know how ratings are determined by power in the industry.  If you're an indie filmmaker with risqué content, well, good luck.  You'll get a judgment and you'll have to live with it.  If you have the backing of a major studio, no problem.  The MPAA will negotiate with you on a scene-by-scene basis.  There are serious implications for getting a more "restrictive" rating, since distribution deals often hinge on appealing to the widest possible audiences.  A more restrictive rating almost guarantees lower box office revenues.  See This Film Is Not Yet Rated for more on this.  Here's a long trailer::

The Amazon controversy is surrounding "gay" content being deemed as "adult."  One author documents his story and voices his concerns.  Like with film in the US, media content on Amazon being deemed as adult content has the effect of limiting reach to potential customers.  The core of the controversy is what are the criteria for being deemed "adult."  It doesn't seem to be evident & I can't make sense of it.  DVDs are not affected and I've seen different editions of the same book treated differently.  For example, Anaïs Nin's Delta of Venus 2004 edition paperback isn't ranked {presemably as it's adult content}, but the original 1977 hardback is { Sales Rank: #156,857 in Books}, albeit only available used through private sellers. Amazon has stated that there in no new adult policy and the rankings issue is a glitch.  Nevertheless, the the above quote makes it clear that Amazon reserves the right to categorize content as "adult," as it sees fit.

Enter Web 2.0.

There's interesting sleuthing going on. has a AmazonFail section and is compiling a list of titles deemed adult & a pictorial comparison.  The story wasn't picked up by the press until Web 2.0 made it a story.  I'm sure Amazon is scrambling on how to deal with this PR nightmare, as consumers are spreading negative word-of-mouth and urging boycotts.   I'm quite interested in seeing how this story evolves.  

If this is a glitch, I think that this really shows that Amazon needs to be more up-front and explicit about what "adult" means.  If Amazon was trying to be content restrictive, will they fess-up, ignore the issue, or cover it up?  Given how Web 2.0 spreads information and opinions, coverups and hoping things will blow over might be adding fuel to the fail.

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