Why the Internet is turning into QVC


This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.

If YouTube has its way, we might soon watch makeup tutorials and buy face powder and eyeliner directly from her site. Facebook goes on the air infomercial style shows which will encourage people to shop from small businesses, including one that sells dog ties.

Many internet personalities and companies are already launching their products on social media. But for the first time in the United States, internet companies appear to be making a concerted effort to make shopping an inextricable and seamless part of the online spaces we come to for fun and information, but not necessarily to buy things.

Yes, the American Internet is turning into a QVC. (People under 30: Send me an email for an explanation of shopping at home TV.)

This is happening for three reasons: greed, fear and China. And the growing craze for digital shopping options is another example of how our online experiences are shaped as much by corporate interests as by our desires.

Let me go back to what’s going on and why. For years in China, young people have been in love with shopping webcasts, short videos and social media characters that inform them both on products and have them bought instantly.

This often happens in the form of an in-app webcast, which my colleague Raymond Zhong has described such as “QVC and late night TV commercials reinvented for the mobile era”. In one of these webcasts last month, a Chinese online launcher known as the “lipstick brother” sold $ 1.9 billion worth of merchandise in just one day.

Technologists have predicted it’s only a matter of time before Americans assume a similar link between ecommerce and social media, but that hasn’t happened.

Many people and businesses on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok sell merchandise, but they often direct you to purchase on Amazon, Sephora, or another website. Part of the magic of Chinese in-app shopping is that you can buy something in the millisecond when your brain says “Oooh, I want it!”

I have been uncertain that Chinese-style online shopping could take hold in the United States. But now there are so many American Internet companies pushing this trend that we could change our habits with the strength of their will alone.

Recently YouTube executives I haven’t stopped talking about transforming the site into a place where video creators can sell items. This week, Google-owned YouTube detailed its plans to introduce webcast of live purchases and “purchasable videos” in time for the holidays. Amazonia, Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are getting bigger with shopping webcast Other functions to purchase items directly even in those apps. This is TikTok, whose Chinese parent company is big on live shopping.

Why is all this happening now? I will return to greed and fear.

Facebook and Google watch the billions of people who use their apps every day and want to sell hot sauce and sneakers to that captive audience. (And it’s a good bet those companies will want a commission from those product sales, even if they’re not talking much about it yet.)

Social media companies are also working hard to cater to people who are looking to make a living with their followers on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, or TikTok, in order to entice users to return to their sites. Ecommerce sales are a carrot that internet giants can offer online creators to help them earn more.

And then there is fear. Google doesn’t love it most Americans turn to Amazon when they are looking for products, rather than in its web search box. Facebook and Snapchat are worried on Apple’s new data privacy rules affecting ad sales. Diversification in ecommerce gives them a plan B. And ad sales alone may not be enough for younger internet companies like Pinterest and Snap.

You’ll notice that my list of why didn’t include shoppers’ desire to buy lipstick from QVC-style Instagram shows or that miracle cleaner you’ve heard of on TikTok right on TikTok. Yup.

Buying things at our favorite online entertainment destinations can be beneficial, or we might feel bad about shopping when chatting with our Facebook gardening groups. We’ll see. If in-app shopping in the US becomes a little more like how it works in China, it might not necessarily be because that’s what Americans want, but because that’s what a group of powerful companies want.

What’s your take on webcast shopping and buying what you want from sites like YouTube or Instagram? Do you want to buy directly from these platforms? Leave your answer in the comments and the On Tech team will respond to a selection.

Next week, I’ll be talking to Reddit CEO about how we can have better conversations online. I’ll also get advice from moderators of some big and healthy online communities, as well as a drag queen who manages a large following. there more information on the event, free for all New York Times subscribers.

Starting Monday, we will also have a group chat on Slack, where you can talk to other readers about the changing role of technology in your life. You will receive an invitation to the group once you have signed up for the event. We see them!


Internet “bots” or automation software used to post on social media or speed up online payments have a bad reputation for spreading propaganda online Other monopolize popular sneakers. But Brian X. Chen, the consumer technology columnist for The New York Times, says we can make good use of robots this holiday season.

Last summer I wrote to column on how to buy a PlayStation 5. It’s worth revisiting because consoles are still in short supply.

Not all bots are bad; there are some who tweet as soon as scarce items are back in stock at retailers. (My address book included some reputable Twitter accounts, including @ PS5Stock Alerts Other @mattswider, which tracks PlayStation.) You can set up alerts to notify your phone as soon as these tweets are posted, then go online and buy.

(Retailers also use bots to buy as many PlayStation as possible and make a big profit on eBay. We don’t recommend this.)

There are other useful tricks if you are eager to purchase a certain product. Instead of waiting for a shopping event like Black Friday, you can buy something you really want now and check if the price drops later. Some retailers have a price adjustment policy, whereby they will agree to refund some of your money if the price is lower than it was at the time of purchase.

Costco, for example, has such a policy: If you bought a laptop today and the price dropped during the week of Black Friday, you could fill out a form on its website to get a gift certificate for the difference.

  • The Department of Justice under Uber: The government said the company broke the law requesting additional fees from people with disabilities who needed more than two minutes to get into the car, my colleague Kate Conger said. The lawsuit dates back to a 2016 Uber policy, which the company said was only aimed at motorcyclists who kept drivers waiting.

  • YouTube hides “dislike” counts: People can still click the “Like” button on the videos, but the number of dislikes on a video will not be publicly visible. This is a change to try to prevent large numbers of people from expressing displeasure with video creators by showering them with dislike clicks, The Verge reports.

  • “Don’t update something you like simply because a company is promoting a new model”, advises Annemarie Conte, editor of Wirecutter, the New York Times product recommendation site. And Annemarie has other great tips on what to do before buying a new tech thing.

YOU DON’T TALK IN THE LABORATORY. “This guy is serious on science.

We hope to learn more about who our On Tech readers are. Please complete this short survey.

If you do not already receive this newsletter in your inbox, please sign up here. You can also read previous columns on technology.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here