Alexa Might Get Paid to Suggest Specific Products

Photo credit: Crosa, CC BY 2.0.

Today in “we all knew this would happen eventually,” we go to CNBC:

Amazon is turning to Alexa and asking it to build a big digital advertising business.

Ha ha, it’s funny because we’re pretending Alexa is an individual that can make choices, instead of a device programmed to influence your choices!

One experiment in the works is letting companies target users based on past shopping behavior. For example, Alexa may suggest to a shopper who previously bought Clorox’s Pine-Sol to consider buying its disinfecting wipes. Amazon is also looking to tap advertising in Alexa’s skills. Someone asking the Echo for help cleaning up a spill might be nudged to use a specific brand.

As CNBC notes, this isn’t that different from the way Amazon structures its search results on the website, with sponsored products at the top. However, with Alexa, you don’t get to scroll through the rest of the products.

For some people, this will be a good thing. Paradox of choice and all. For advertisers, this’ll be a great thing; they can pay Amazon to ensure their product gets suggested. For Amazon, of course, this could be a huge revenue stream.

I wonder if certain types of advertisers will try to influence Alexa from the other direction. Are people trying to turn click farms into, like, voice farms? Paying workers pennies to ask Alexa about specific products, over and over?

This is the kind of story I’d love to see them do a Black Mirror on, instead of five episodes about the fear of an eternal afterlife.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.