Amazon Guide Spam
January 30, 2004 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Why yes, I would like to rip my Lancaster County Prison CD. Viking Components invents a whole new form of spam, courtesy of Amazon's Guides feature. [more]
posted by staggernation (9 comments total)
After reading an interview with Shane MacGowan in which he sputtered the praises of a band called Lancaster County Prison, I searched for them on Amazon. This incongruous "So You'd Like to..." guide was displayed prominently on the search results page. It was written by "The Viking Guy," who turns out to be the proud author of no fewer than 5,797 guides. Needless to say, if I want to rip my Lancaster County Prison CD, I'll want to store the resulting MP3 files on Viking flash media.

It's pretty clever, actually. They've taken the time to create a separate copy of the "Rip your ______ CD" guide for each of thousands of CDs, and a copy of the "Download the song ______" guide for each of thousands of freely downloadable songs. They seem to target obscure artists, presumably so that no legitimate guides will turn up and be displayed instead.

"Transferring Schnick-Schnack to a Flash Card" indeed.

Anil Dash posted a while back about the same company making Listmania lists related to their products, but this seems quite a bit sketchier.

Has anyone run across any other companies doing this? Does Amazon just not care?

And are Lancaster County Prison as good as Shane MacGowan says?
posted by staggernation at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2004

On the bright side, at least they're upfront about it and clear who they work for. I always figured amazon was loaded with cloak and dagger company insiders posing as Joe Everyman extolling the virtues of their products.
posted by mathowie at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2004

I have to agree with Matt on that one. I like the reviews - the garden hose one is signed, "David Payne, eBusiness Channel Manager, Viking Components," and there's no clear business-related motivation for including a review of it, other than to establish that there's at least one actual person (with a recognizably tech-geek personality and set of material desires) behind the account, and not just a bot. "Viking Components - We Still Employ Human Beings!" Of course, "David Payne" could be an elaborate character (complete with spouse, academic headaches, and plausible pop-culture preferences) developed by the evil geniuses of the Viking Components marketing team to subtly appeal to our all-too-human empathy. Those bastards!
posted by skoosh at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2004

From the site: Read 11 times.

Wow, we're hardly mefidotting the web tonight.
posted by bonaldi at 11:20 AM on January 30, 2004

Now it says 146 times... maybe that number only gets updated periodically.
posted by staggernation at 11:37 AM on January 30, 2004

Viking also has guides for "How to save your copy of [insert every movie title ever made] onto a [insert every flash memory module *they* make] and watch it on your [insert every PDA ever made]."


This is definitely horrid spam, and I'm sure Amazon is getting paid for it. The presence of some marketing guy's name on it does nothing to make it not spam. It's formulaic, cookie-cutter repeated a zillion times. 5797 to be exact! The bold declaration that it comes from Viking is just more evidence that Amazon is in on it. They probably insisted on the openness to mitigate the sliminess of the spam.

I've seen an extensive business partnership with Amazon up close and in action and they definitely don't stand for this kind of spamming unless it's worth their while. It's been going on way too long to have gone unnoticed by them, too.

I'm not saying they're slimy in general because they aren't. I am saying they're too smart to let someone do this to their site for free.
posted by scarabic at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2004

I dunno, if I were Amazon I'd be a bit annoyed. The whole idea of customer reviews is that the reviews are by customers and not by manufacturers with an agenda. Recommender systems don't work as well if you lose trust in who a recommender might be.
posted by carter at 12:12 PM on January 30, 2004

I'm sure Amazon is getting paid for it.

Probably the other way around, actually.
posted by kindall at 3:40 PM on January 30, 2004

On the upside, Lancaster County Prison are a great band and hella nice guys. Country punk with songs about such things as the Whydah.
posted by notsnot at 11:11 PM on January 30, 2004

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