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July 16, 2015, 3:41 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   July 16, 2015

Amazon celebrated its 20th birthday on Wednesday with Prime Day, a full 24 hours of limited-time deals. For The Wirecutter, it was literally like Christmas in July — the team at the gadget and technology review site spent the day sifting through deals and highlighting the best for its readers, using techniques it’s developed for Black Friday and other holiday sales over the past couple of years.

The Wirecutter (and home goods sister site The Sweethome) ended up finding 35 notable deals out of more than 3,000. To get to that roughly 1 percent of good stuff, the sites had staffers work in shifts, starting at midnight Pacific Time on July 15, when Prime Day kicked off. “It was important to us that we were as ready as we possibly could be, especially since Amazon was pretty quiet about what exactly was going to happen,” deals editor J.D. Levite told me. “Pretty much everyone who works at The Wirecutter and The Sweethome had a hand in sifting through the deals at some point in the day.”

“The secret sauce for us is we have some great staff who are obsessive,” editor-in-chief Jacqui Cheng said. But there are other tactics too: “We keep a big tally of the deals we’ve scanned and the ones that we’ve approved so that we can post the stats on Twitter and elsewhere.” The sites also have “private” price-tracking methods to filter out the best deals.

The team communicated on Slack and via email to coordinate on deals and social media, with just one person updating the actual site. “One of our goals for this event was actually to eliminate as much of the ‘process’ as possible because we knew the deals were going to come up fast, be limited in both duration and stock, and disappear quickly,” Levite said. “So the process was easy: Spot the deal, confirm its worth, get it on the page, and get it to the readers.” Some staffers looked at the Lightning Deals; some searched for the normal deals that the sites would post on a regular day; and some looked at specific beats, like computer accessories or headphones.

The Internet’s general reaction to Prime Day is that it was a disappointment — like a junky yard sale with nothing you actually want to buy, inspiring the Twitter hashtag #PrimeDayFail. But Cheng and Levite came away feeling good (and not only because The Wirecutter makes the bulk of its revenue from Amazon affiliate links).

“Most deals are just not awesome,” Cheng said. “I wouldn’t say that it was disappointing on our end. We were just glad to be able to help people sort through the crap.”

“Out of the more than 3,200 deals we scanned at Amazon yesterday, we actually found 35 good products going at good prices, some of them going for their lowest prices ever,” Levite said. “So to me, that’s pretty exciting because I love a good deal.”

He didn’t buy anything, though. “I didn’t have the time.”

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