Sign up to receive 5 free days of our daily summary for tech news.

Read this article for free.

Already a subscriber? Log in here

Amazon Google

Amazon Ad Business Sparks Controversy—and Growth

There aren’t many companies that can claim to have a special competitive advantage over Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others in the cut-throat online advertising business. But Amazon.com, armed with unique customer data, a growing array of media-centric businesses, and a fledgling but fast-growing advertising platform, may be that rare beast.

Already, the e-commerce giant’s ad unit, which began to ramp up in 2011, is nearing a billion dollars in revenue, according to eMarketer. Media buyers say that growth has come even without an especially aggressive effort to lure them. Led by Seattle-based business development executive Jeff Blackburn and New York-based sales executives Lisa Utzschneider and Mark Mannino, Amazon’s ad division sells banner ads on the Amazon.com website and on Amazon-owned websites such as movie site IMDB, as well as on third-party sites. More recently the company has been displaying ads on the home screen of its Kindle e-readers and tablets.

Yet Amazon walks a delicate line in exploiting its most important asset: an enormous cache of shopping data that it can use to target people based on their in-store browsing history and their actual purchases. That, mixed with a corporate culture that has long valued secrecy and an insistence on making partners play by its rules, has made Amazon a controversial presence in the ad world.

What Is The Information?

Notebook b5103017ee163370a1667c9ce59ab0ef023875a17888105d26c185cadf31bb69

Daily news analysis

Every weeknight, we'll send you our reporters’ views on the day’s top tech news—distilled into one email.

Notes bb3aa5069205d702dda37fc71dc6f1c59df2310c4379304e9f1199f052af4884

Exclusive Articles

We broke it first. Receive original reporting, stories, and exclusives you won't read anywhere else from the largest newsroom in tech.

Conference calls c9e664e8b96ee347d3e92b8309938f268422b9db98cfabca5c826fbb75054b23

Conference calls

Go deep into areas like crypto and VC diversity—or get real-time analysis of breaking news—via conference calls with our reporters and other experts.

Events 499acedd16cffc41445edd76bfd302b2836c2a27419890f17130a6b10e2aa3df

Special Events

For no extra fee, subscribers get access to more than a dozen events yearly, from intimate dinners to larger gatherings with marquee speakers.

Access the best reporting on the tech industry read by tens of thousands of global executives.

Become a contributor

Share your views and find other subscribers by completing your profile. You’ll be listed in our contributor directory.

Org Charts

Access the only collection of tech company org charts. Our expanding database includes companies like Amazon, Snap, and Uber.

Slack community

Discuss topics and current events with our subscriber-only Slack group and share news about your company with other subscribers.

Share with your team

Subscribers can unlock any article and share it with friends and co-workers through a special share link.

Stay up to date on Silicon Valley

Sign up for Jessica Lessin’s (The Information’s CEO & Founder) free Saturday newsletter and also receive a complimentary week of our daily afternoon tech commentary email.

Already a subscriber? Log in here

Recent Articles

Asia Cybersecurity Google AI

Google Developing News App for China

By Wayne Ma and Juro Osawa

Amazon E-commerce

The Reality Behind Voice Shopping Hype

By Priya Anand

Amazon E-commerce

Behind Some Low Amazon Prices: Stolen Goods

By Reed Albergotti

Advertising executives say Amazon refuses to discuss many basic metrics that other ad platforms routinely share. It also goes out of its way to keep customer data away from third party companies and ad exchanges, these executives say.