TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
Let me be clear. Amazon.com is NOT starting a blogging service...to my knowledge. The title of this post and this post is merely to highlight the possibility that they could start a pretty interesting and unique blogging service, with RSS feeds and all the bells and whistles, IF they wanted to...and the web would likely be a better place for it.
Let me explain. The company, a bonafide Internet 1.0 pioneer, just celebrated it's tenth anniversary, much like its peers like Yahoo!, eBay, amongst others. Even Netscape (remember them?) had a birthday remembrance in absentia, courtesy of Fortune magazine.
The company's come a long way, changed the world in a lot of ways, and has added gobs and gobs of Internet goodness for consumers around the world. They've done this both directly, and by example, where other start ups "borrowed" Amazon's innovations and implemented them in their own overseas markets. They've introduced minor luxuries like "1-click ordering", licensed it to companies no less than iconic/ipodic Apple, and turned millions into online shopping addicts.
Along the way, they've also created one of the most extensive, self-sustaining on-line shoppers' communities on the world, this side of eBay. But one could argue, they've not leveraged this shoppers' community as much as they could, with all the constant reviews that they write, on almost every product imaginable under the sun, that's presumably read by tens of millions of potential shoppers before they one-click their way to instant gratification.
I'm talking about of course, Amazon's longstanding, amazingly broad and deep reviewer community. I don't know how many of them are, but there are tens of thousands, judging from number 49,198 here.
First, let me introduce you to Harriet Klausner, who as of July 20, 2005, 12:43pm EST, is the NUMBER ONE reviewer on Amazon on this list of top reviewers. She has 9440 reviews to her credit, and over 58994 voters found her reviews "helpful" so far.
Now under Amazon's procedures, this doesn't mean that she has the highest number of reviews on Amazon.com, but only that all her reviews cumulatively got her the highest "helpful" rating. So there could be someone who has more reviews than hard-working Harriet, but there's no easy way to find that person that I can tell with the current Amazon interface to the reviews.
Let me try and put 9440 reviews in context though, and you'll especially appreciate this if your are even a reasonably active blogger.
I've been blogging consistently on this site since February this year, and I've managed to put up 205 posts. Mostly one in a single day, occasionally a couple. It takes me a minimum of 10 minutes, often far more to come up with a post. Most of them are tolerable, some OK, and a very few I would personally consider pretty good. But it's hard work every day on this labor of love.
Harriet has 9440 reviews, which at my pace of one a day, would have taken over 25 years of work. Presumably she's written far more per day, for a few years, and taken far shorter a time per review. And all of those reviews, have in totality been so appreciated by Amazon customers that they've voted her the number one reviewer on the service.
So what's the point? Well, what if Amazon announced a feature tomorrow, that offered Harriet, and other tens of thousands of Amazon reviewers, the ability to easily set up a personal blog to the entire web, that automatically logs every review as a blog post?
What if you as a user/reader/online customer could access Harriet's 9440 reviews by categories, search-words and the like, instead of having to go through 9440 reviews sequentially sorted the only way Amazon currently lets you sort, "helpful" votes, which by the way, is not so helpful.
Why, I daresay, Harriet could overnight become one of the most prolific bloggers on the web, and the default authority on a range of subjects. Right now, she has no easy way to "re-publish" her review content on her blog, assuming she has one. Her content is stuck within Amazon's walls, which is probably how they liked it to be so far.
So why would this be beneficial to Amazon? If there was a system to simultaneously publish content into Amazon as well as an external blog, with no extra effort, I daresay, Amazon would get a heck of a lot of reviewers, which is turn could drive a lot more new and incremental sales. Incidentally, there are hacks out there that allow you to re-post an Amazon review to your blog, (courtesy O'Reilly Hacks), but they're definitely not mainstream user friendly.
Not to mention that Amazon would be "re-purposing" content at relatively low cost, to use a popular buzzword from the past. In fact most bloggers I read are constantly blogging about the music (e.g. Fred Wilson), books, movies, etc. they like.
And, what if THOSE OUTSIDE BLOGGERS, say within TypePad, or Google Blogger, could simultaneously re-publish those reviews into the Amazon system, with RSS links?
So in general, this would encourage more reviewers and reviews from both existing Amazon reviewers and outside bloggers.
Now what if you could give the reviewer/blogger a piece of the action on a purchase, that was automatically credited to your Amazon account? Why, this would be like something TypePad has done, in partnership with online ad company Kanoodle, where TypePad/Six-apart Pro bloggers like myself, who are paying a monthly fee, could get any ad-related dollars to credited against their monthly payment.
Amazon wouldn't even have to invent/buy the blogging infrastructure...they could partner with TypePad/Google's Blogger, and/or any number of other blogging services.
And it doesn't have to stop with the reviewers on Amazon. The company has a whole host of other community types, including Listmania, Discussion Groups, Purchase Circles, etc., and not to mention services like imdb and Alexa that they also own, that could all potentially benefit by being empowered with this simultaneous blogging capability.
I've posted before on how I think blogging services need to evolve for portals and software companies. This post is to suggest ways that non-portal services like Amazon, could also get in on the action, enriching both themselves and the web along the way. It'd be kind of like a reversible jacket that you could wear both ways, (and look great), and be a really special ten-year birthday present all around.