business news in context, analysis with attitude

•  Bloomberg reports that Amazon "is freezing staffing levels in its profitable advertising business, according to a person familiar with the matter, showing that the world’s largest e-commerce company is taking more drastic measures to align expenses with slowing sales. 

"The headcount freeze was announced internally Tuesday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. Amazon will continue to fill vacancies in its advertising business, but won’t create any new positions, the person said."

More context from Bloomberg:

"The decision to keep the advertising unit workforce at its current level shows Amazon is looking to squeeze more profit out of the fast-growing business in the busy holiday quarter. Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said in a media call last week that Amazon would continue to invest in its advertising division and its cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web Services, while looking for other places to cut costs.

"Amazon’s advertising business -- largely sponsored search results on its web store -- generated $9.55 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, an increase of 25% from the same period a year earlier."

•  From Business Insider:

"Amazon ordered employees to save all documents and data related to the Federal Trade Commission's ongoing investigation into the Prime sign-up and cancellation process.

"An internal email shared on Friday, and obtained by Insider,  from a representative of Amazon's litigation and regulatory unit instructed a group of employees to 'preserve' all company files relevant to the FTC-Prime investigation. They are 'required to preserve relevant documents and data' stored in their work and home computers, as well as personal devices and even CDs and DVDs, the email said. Files of interest can range from hard copies and electronic documents to emails, instant messages, and calendar entries.

"Only a select group of employees 'who might have such information' received the email, it said.   'You should preserve all relevant documents and data regardless of when the documents and data were created or received by you, whether you created the document or not, and even if the relevant portion is only a small part of the documents or data,' the email read.

"Amazon's spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment."

•  From the New York Times this morning:

"The Walt Disney Company announced on Tuesday that it would begin a 'limited test' to determine the viability of selling themed merchandise alongside certain Disney+ shows and films. Until next Tuesday, Disney+ subscribers will have exclusive access to a smattering of new products tied to franchises like 'Star Wars,' 'Black Panther' and 'Frozen.' The items include light saber collectibles ($250 to $400) and themed clothing ($27 to $100) that will go on sale in regular retail stores next week.

"The shopping option is available only on Disney+ profiles in the United States that have been verified as belonging to users who are 18 and older. The number of Disney+ subscribers in the United States is not known; Disney has said the service has about 45 million customers in North America.

"The effort reflects a business reality: Disney+ has more than 150 million subscribers worldwide, up from about 115 million a year ago, but the days of easy growth are over. Disney must work harder to sign up new subscribers and find ways to keep current ones from canceling, especially with a possible recession on the horizon. Exclusive access to merchandise could be one sweetener. Another could involve perks at Disney theme parks, including early access to new rides. Disney+ subscribers have already received discounts at Walt Disney World hotels in Florida."