Wednesday, April 19

Listeners also bought...(a lot of other stuff)

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
iTunes Store's recommendation engine does the darndest stuff. Browse amongst the less popular artists in almost any genre, and if the album you're looking at hasn't been purchased too many times, what do you get recommended? Bernard Fanning's Tea & Sympathy.

Don't get me wrong; it's a great album, but the chances of it also being purchased by someone who bought Urge Overkill's Saturation are very low.

Much more likely that there's a merchandising filter built into the iTunes Store management tool that lets a manager flog an album in spaces where there's nothing much else to recommend at this time, because there isn't a sufficient purchase history to deliver an accurate recommendation for titles like Saturation.

Problems are twofold: (a) merchandising filters can be like a firehose - very, very on or very, very off - so you see one title over-merchandised on pages like this; and (b) they tend to create a closed feedback loop - enough people browse from Urge Overkill to Bernard Fanning to fool the recommendation algorithm into offering Tea & Sympathy as a recommendation rather than a merchandised product.

Fanning's already sold more copies of Tea & Sympathy on iTunes Store Australia than there is tea in China, so the person managing the store should really give the server a good hard kick at this point - send it off to go merchandise something else.

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