From 2009 to 2018, I was the secret Santa behind God knows how many Louis Vuitton wallets and Prada perfumes under American Christmas trees. As an editor at the luxury-shopping website PurseBlog, I was the gift-guide maestro, orchestrating hundreds of product suggestions each season. I gift-guided my brains out for weeks at a time, doing the unseen busywork behind tens of thousands of luxe Christmas mornings.
Some years, I wrote more than a dozen guides, spanning everything from $3,000 handbags to spangled dog collars and $20 iPhone cases styled to look like Chanel nail-polish bottles. I themed them around obvious categories of gift receivers, like moms and dads, and around less obvious ones, like frenemies and paranoiacs. I wrote guides for early shoppers and for procrastinators, guides in which I picked gifts for people based on their favorite TV shows, guides for buying gifts for me that people then used to buy gifts for others or for themselves.
My 10 years of holiday toil were in a niche corner of the internet, but the task of rooting out and presenting the best gifts the web has to offer has become nearly universal among those with an audience online. Beyond the curious clicks they draw, gift guides often allow publishers to sell outright sponsorships or subtly blend content and commerce through back-end deals with many of the stores they link to, pocketing a portion of sales. The recommendations serve every kind of customer: Good Housekeeping has recently been promoting a gift guide full of CVS products on Twitter, and Bloomberg’s guide includes an $80,000 Tiffany bird nest made from spun gold.