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Amazon’s Lending Business for Online Merchants Gains Momentum – Bloomberg News


Amazon received widespread and global coverage of the news that its lending business surpassed $3 billion in loans since the program started in 2011, and $1 billion in the past year. In addition to BloombergAmazon’s press release was the basis for articles in the Financial Times, Reuters as well as The Times in the U.K. and many other outlets.


The Seattle-based company’s press release ticked a lot of boxes to help generate interest in a business that many didn’t even know Amazon owned.


What Works:
  • Strong News Hooks.  Amazon identified a milestone within one of its little-known businesses and smartly capitalized on that achievement. Journalists typically love milestones because they involve nicely rounded numbers that everyone can relate to and provide them with a compelling reason to write about a specific topic. Amazon also made good use of the big numbers news hook – surpassing $3 billion in loans to more than 20,000 small businesses – by flagging these numbers high up in the press release.
  • Show, Don’t Tell. If the naked facts are sufficiently compelling, let them do the talking! Amazon limited itself to factually reporting the milestone achievement, which enabled the media to draw their own inevitable conclusion: “Amazon Has Secretly Become a Giant Bank”, as online news outlet The Street reported.
  • Easy-to-Use Background and Quote. Amazon’s press release had five short but detailed bullet points about its lending operation. News outlets picked up on these nuggets. Both Reuters and Bloomberg included the fact that 20,000 small businesses have received loans, and that they ranged from $1,000 to $750,000. Also, Amazon included a compelling quote from a vice president that backed up the bullet points and the financial milestones. In its article, The Street used the quote verbatim.
What Doesn’t Work:
  • Missing Context. Amazon failed to provide context to put its big numbers in perspective. Surpassing $3 billion in loans is impressive and catches our attention, but what does it mean? Where does this place Amazon in the lending market if we exclude traditional banks like Citibank? Also, what are the lending operation’s short and long term goals, and what’s their strategy to get there?
  • Missing Data. Amazon failed to mention the interest rates that it charges merchants. The company could have compared those to typical credit card or cash advance rates, especially if Amazon’s are lower.
What We’ve Learned:

Amazon’s press release is an interesting lesson in how to “create” news. Look at your business and look ahead to see if you’ll have interesting milestones to announce. Your 1,000th customer, or 1 millionth sale might provide a compelling angle to build your story. 

Amazon backed up its milestone with detailed facts and well-written quotes that all of the news outlets easily plugged into their articles. Amazon also surprised media outlets with new information — the online retailer that had humble beginnings as a bookseller is now also a giant bank.

Check out Amazon’s press release here and let me know in the comments section below why you think it was so effective and what lessons you will likely apply in your next press release.

Alex Armitage is co-founder and CEO of Publiqly, whose Workflows help small and mid-sized companies write press releases that journalists and bloggers can’t ignore. Were you forwarded this post? Sign up to receive our weekly press release lessons directly in your inbox.

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