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Taobao's web site. Photo by Bloomberg
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Alibaba’s Ad Shift Shows Path for Amazon

Photo: Taobao's web site. Photo by Bloomberg

For a look at how Amazon could develop its ad business, it’s worth paying attention to what China’s Alibaba is doing.

Alibaba is China’s biggest digital advertising platform, thanks to search ads it sells to merchants promoting their items on its Taobao marketplace. Now, Alibaba is testing new types of ads that are designed to appear among recommended items in Taobao’s feed. This project is internally called “chaoji tuijian,” or “super recommendation” in English, according to employees with knowledge of the matter. It’s as though Amazon’s “recommendations for you” postings on its homepage were ads.

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