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Don't Buy Amazonian Hype

One of these holiday seasons, The Business Press Maven is going to fall into a serene silence, but mark my coarse and high-decibel soul: until Amazon (AMZN) stops being allowed to print its own holiday headlines, all bets for serenity are off.

Last year, as always, Amazon issued a comical press release, which for the business media proved a serious call to action.

The press release was headlined: "Amazon.com's 12th Holiday Season is Best Ever," and it was hastily repeated by The Associated Press: "Amazon.com Has 'Best Ever' Sales in 2006." Sounds a tad familiar, no?

Never mind that achieving a raw sales record on a year-over-year basis in the young and quickly expanding field of online retailing is no accomplishment. It's expected. Amazon, after all, was not talking about profit (which is the only thing that matters) and was incredibly nonspecific when bragging about "more than" 4 million orders placed on a certain day in early December.

It's not that any top-line/number-of-goods-sold number is completely worthless, but if that's all you're giving, at least track its long-term growth rate on a year-over-year basis. In 2005 when, yes, the company did the same song and dance, it was at least specific about this meaningless number, which brings us to this year.

On Wednesday spake Amazon, in a familiar-sounding and self-satisfied press release: "Amazon.com Wraps Up Its 13th Holiday Season With Best Season Ever."

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