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Amazon’s $31 Billion ‘Ad Business’ Isn’t

They getcha coming and going

Jean-Leon Gerome’s painting Pollice Verso, 1872, depicting gladiators in an arena with noble onlookers giving a thumbs-down gesture. The tapestry before the nobles has been replaced with a US $100 bill in which Ben Franklin’s mouth has been replaced by an Amazon smile logo. Image: Jean-Leon Gerome (modified) US Treasury (modified) Amazon (modified)

Looking at Amazon’s quarterly financials, it would be easy to mistake the company’s $31b ad division as a serious shift in the online advertising industry, but that would be a huge mistake. You see, Amazon’s not really selling ads.

Nearly all of that $31b is for an “ad” on Amazon itself: that is it’s Amazon collecting…

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