What Works For Amazon?

THE OTHER E-COMMERCE POSTER CHILD: A GUIDE

Attempting to understand Amazon.com's finances is like exploring the banks of its rain-forest namesake with a blunt machete. E-tailing is as vast--and maybe less explored. Jeff Bezos' territory ($1 billion in sales per quarter) is no exception.

Yet it is time for a reckoning. In anticipation of this week's crucial earnings announcement (Remember the make-or-break holiday season?), analysts have been abuzz with pre-mortems. We already know Bezos won't announce a dime of profit, but that's not all we're looking for. Level-headed Amazon watchers say it's best to divine the company's destiny thusly:

--FIRST-TIME SHOPPERS. At the end of...

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