Kindle, Audible, and How Amazon Pulls One Over on Tech Blogs

In this post I’m planning to show you the man behind the curtain. I’m hoping to give you a better understanding of what I can see, both as a blogger and as someone who watches the media.

So the hot story this past week was about how the Kindle Wifi could now download Audible audiobooks over the Wifi connection, which means you don’t have to plug your K3 into your computer and transfer the audiobooks over USB.

That’s the story everyone was writing, even me (I wrote the post over at eBookNewser).  Here’s the interesting part of the story, and it’s the part that most missed:

The K3 Wifi has been able to download from Audible for at least a month now, maybe more.

I know it’s been at least a month because that ‘s when I noticed the ability. It could even have been longer; one commenter over at Techcrunch noticed the downloads back in January. But if the news isn’t news, then why did everyone write about it? That, my dear, is the real story.

The answer is actually pretty simple. Amazon has a killer marketing department.

BTW, do you recall the story from last week about the Kindle page numbers? That’s another example of their marketing department at work. There was little content there beyond “Hey, look, we have page numbers. Aren’t they pretty?” The page numbers had been in use for over a month, and everyone had already written about them. But Amazon still managed to get bloggers to act as unpaid billboards. <- I respect that.

I’ve seen this happen several times now, and I’m pretty sure I understand how Amazon does it. It’s a 3 step process and it’s rather subtle.

Step One – Write a blog post on an official Kindle blog highlighting some feature of the Kindle. Make sure the post is not too long and not too complicated. (This makes it easier for bloggers to write about.)

Step Two – Send out an email to the usual mailing list of tech bloggers, and point them at the blog post. Amazon maintain a list of every blogger who has ever attended a Kindle press event. It’s been 3 plus years since the Kindle launched, and that list probably has just about every tech blogger on it.

The email is usually sent from Kinley Campbell, and it’s automatically generated by Amazon’s software. Yep, Amazon is spamming the blogging community (and they’re getting away with it, too).

Step Three – Sit back and enjoy the free advertising.

I was inspired to write this post because one blog I follow, Techcrunch, has now fallen victim to this hokum. They used to write posts poking fun at marketing people who did this, and now they write the same puff pieces as anyone else.

TBF, I bet some know what’s going on, and they go along with it anyway. They know they’re being spoon-fed, but it’s an easy post which doesn’t require any work.  Or they might not want to annoy Amazon and thus lose access.

So next time you see the same story about Amazon on a dozen or more blogs, I hope that you will remember that the story was planted. It is an advert, not a news story.

It will make me happy to know that there is one more informed consumer out there.

image by toejamnotearl

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Chris27 March, 2011

    Agreed. I fall for it sometimes, and sometimes I don’t. I’m usually too proud of myself when I see through the ruse. (“Too proud” because I’m sure I’ve been manipulated more times than I know.)

    In general, I find that tech blogging is pretty much equivalent to MSM’s political and entertainment coverage, in that it’s all secretly(?) driven by marketing departments, publicists, and message consultants. In fact, I think the best way to critically read gadget blogs is to view them as modern catalogs, not journalism.

    This is why I’m so appreciative of hands-on reviews, good interviews, and stories about DIY/indie hacks — they’re generally more resistant to marketer manipulation.

  2. Alan8 April, 2011

    Here’s a blog story I haven’t seen about the “new” ability to download from Audible. The kindle book and audible book archive is commingled in the same list. The audible books have a “audible” tag, but they are listed together with kindle books. What does this matter? My audible library is over 200 books which when added to my kindle book library makes finding kindle content difficult since I have over 20 pages of archives. So with the good comes poor implementation. I’ve been told that they are working on a way to separate the two content stores to make paging through reading and listening archives easier. We’ll see. Don’t get me wrong, even though I will likely never listen to a book on my kindle, it’s still good to be able to check to see if I have the audible book before buying the kindle book without going to my computer to check my online library.


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