Amazon.com’s recent Kindle announcement on the new reduced (or perhaps enhanced) version of the Kindle with Special Offers is very interesting indeed. It’s almost as if Amazon has finally awoken to the unbelievable advertising potential they have with Kindle.
It hit me a few months back when I got my Kindle (it’s literally one of the best things that I have ever bought, such a great device) that you have all this screen time so to speak when the device is off, but is displaying information (all due to e-ink technology (it only drains battery life when the screen is changing) ((However there are other options for what could be displayed on the off-screen that Amazon doesn’t necessarily give you. It would be just as easy and maybe more practical to keep displaying the current page, or perhaps nothing. I think this choice *could* be given to the user, but it that happens, then implementing ads could be more tricky. It perhaps boils down to the ‘If you don’t ask, then you don’t get mentality’)) . In the Kindle 3’s case, famous authors (~50%), random pictures of fish, maps and statues (~40%) and ‘Welcome to Kindle’ and feedback screens (10%) are displayed. I mean obviously at launch and potentially for a lot longer (even indefinitely with the premium Kindles) Amazon want to keep it classy (you don’t see advertisements in the adwords sense on Amazon do you?) and keep a good brand reputation. They’re currently doing this well, showing predominantly neutral things on the off screen.
But there is so much potential is using that screen for other uses. Perhaps advertising, perhaps not, but clearly they’ve just stumbled upon what they can do with it ((or maybe they had it in mind for a while and just decided to implement it now)). There are not many devices out right now that have free global 3G wireless (though some Kindle’s just have Wi-Fi (let’s ignore that for the moment)). Ads could be displayed on the Kindle’s off screen, delivered automatically and seamlessly through Whispernet (their wireless data service), localised (dependant on where the Kindle connects from) and trackable (advertisers could know how many views etc.). There’s such amazing market potential for enabling the Kindle to be used in this fashion. But then customers may feel used. They bought their Kindles to read on and now they’re being used as mini billboards. While the product is still fit for purpose and usable, I’m not sure that the augmented product and people’s perceptions of it (and Amazon as a company) would stay the same. And I think this is one of the main reasons why the special offers Kindle is sold as a separate entity. Sure it draws people away from the other Kindle models, but I think that the more people they can get receiving the special offers, the more weight and confidence they can throw behind it to future potential advertisers. Additionally the lower price may draw entirely new customers.
Admittedly Amazon have gotten off to a great start. I think one of the main issues with advertising now (and maybe always) is its intrusiveness and the lack of cohesion that it tends to create with the content that it gets paired with. To succeed, one must overcome this. Changing perceptions is one way to do this. Look at the offers you suddenly become entitled to when you get a ‘Special Offers’ Kindle over a regular Wi-Fi one:
- $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
- $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
- $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
- $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop
- Free $100 Amazon.com Gift Card when you get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card (normally $30)
- Buy one of 30 Kindle bestsellers with your Visa card and get $10 Amazon.com credit
- 50% off Roku Streaming Player (normally $99)
And they’re presented in such a classy fashion. Not too intrusive, and in a similar style the current off-screen images.
It’s almost like you’re saving money in addition to saving money. How great is that. Money may not be everyone’s biggest pull factor, but it sure is for a lot of people, and it’s up there for the rest of us, so why not tempt us with it?
But as if the monetary saving isn’t good enough, and just to relieve you from your worrying that your ad supported Kindle (because frankly that’s what it is) might not be that good after all (think how crippled half the iOS apps with ads are!) you get to choose the ads you see. Admash, the advertising comparison ‘app’ is almost too good to be true, an April Fools joke if you will. It sounds a lot like something straight out of The Social Network (Facemash). But if it conquers bad feelings about advertisement on your Kindle (while obviously showing more than just one advert (potentially even for the same product)) while making sure that you even perhaps concentrate on the advertisements (you do have to choose after all) then it totally kills like 3 birds with one stone ((Bird 1 – The ‘People don’t pay attention to ads’ bird, Bird 2 – The ‘How many ads can you show as a whole (more opportunities = more potential revenue for Amazon) and where can you display them’ bird and Bird 3 – The ‘People don’t like ads’ bird (Though this is assuming that if you get to have your choice of ads then you’ll like them more).)) and can only be a good thing. Sweet.
But where do they go from here? What’s the next step with advertising on the Kindle, and maybe more importantly what’s the next step with the Kindle in general. While there is mention (or maybe just predictions) that the Kindle may be free by the second half of this year (see this optimistic chart) I see that as being a little too soon. Perhaps it will go the way of the movie streaming on the US Amazon site ((Yes, I’m bitter that despite having prime, both for the US and the UK, I still don’t get any movie streaming)), and become part of the service model that Amazon is implementing with Prime, so you get a free Kindle if you sign up with Prime (I can actually see this happening by the end of the year). Perhaps it could go other routes, even the Gillette/Razor Blade/Printer ink (less so) model could work – buy an ebook, get the Kindle to read it with free ((However there are many issues with this in that people could just buy one book and migrate to reading .mobi and .pdf’s (all obtained through other means) and thus depriving Amazon of business. Then again this may happen to Gillette all the time and they still keep to this strategy. An option would be to limit the Kindle to just reading .azw files until x number of books or an add on have been purchased. Seems too pernickety though.)). Perhaps it’s already happening subtly with the price decreases of the Kindle and price increases of eBooks (it would be interesting to look at the metrics of this), but I think in this current stage (still fairly early in this market), Amazon is prepared to make less profit (or even a loss) to garner more market share from Nooks and Sony devices (one of the ways that it was doing this was through big pull factors with particular books, particularly Steig Larsson and the particularly low prices (and large sales volume) it had over the December holiday period). The advertising market with the Kindle is still young however, and Amazon’s just beginning to try things out now. I think aspects of it will fail, especially the bar of home screen ads that will most likely go the way of Twitter’s dickbar.
However aspects of it will do well. Especially if they ‘keep it classy’ and maintain their brand reputation whilst implementing these ads. I think there will be a lot of swing and power to them over the next few years if they’re implemented well now. I’m interested to see what happens, and it’ll be coming right to a Kindle screen near you.