Amazon Testing “Plogs”

First recommended products that it thought its customers would find interesting. Now it’s taking advantage of the blogging phenomenon by topping its home page with a personalized “Plog,” a blog-style feature that links to recommended products and provides relevant information.

“Your Plog is a diary of events that will enhance your shopping experience, helping you discover products that have just been released, track changes to your orders, and many other things,” the company says on its site. “Just like a blog, your Plog is sorted in reverse chronological order. When we think we have something interesting or important to tell you, we’ll post it to your Plog.”

The Plog feature is still in beta testing.

“The goal of the plog service is to provide users with an easy way to keep current on events that are relevant to them,” said Craig Berman, director of platform and technology communications at Amazon, in an email exchange. “The service is designed to further enhance the customer experience by providing personalized information, including product recommendations, order updates and other content in one convenient location.”

The information that appears in the Plog is driven by Amazon’s database of information about a user — previous purchases and ratings of products. One entry begins: “‘The Rule of Four’ was released today; We thought you’d be interested because you rated ‘The Da Vinci Code’.” Following that introduction is a Publishers Weekly review of the newly released book. Each book mention links to its Amazon product page.

To allay privacy concerns, Amazon allows users to opt out of having purchase details shown on the Plog in their account preferences area.

While many businesses, most notably Amazon partner Google, have launched blogs to communicate with the public, the personalized nature of the Plog and its prominent home page placement make Amazon’s approach unique. The Plog could almost be called the reverse of a blog. While blogs are usually highly personal diaries produced by an individual and read by others, the Amazon version is produced by a company (or a company’s technology) and each version is personalized for just one individual.

So far, there appears to be no RSS feed of the Plog, though it would seem like a natural distribution method. Most blogging software generates an RSS or Atom feed automatically, and Amazon has been a pioneer in using RSS to distribute information about its products. Many marketers and publishers are looking to RSS as a spam-free alternative to email newsletters. (Amazon wouldn’t comment on whether an RSS feed is in the works.)

Amazon, through its subsidiary A9, has lately been experimenting with new ways of collecting and using data about its customers. A9 recently launched a search site that keeps a log of users’ searches and site visits, also allowing them to keep notes about sites.

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