When we encounter that hideous term "e-tailer," businesses like Amazon.com and Outpost.com come to mind; we think of companies that exist (or, after the dot-com bust, fail to exist) exclusively to sell stuff on the 'net. In our heads, Apple doesn't quite fit into that category, since it's first and foremost a manufacturer of hardware and software. Yes, the company sells some of that gear through its web site, but most of it finds its way into customer's hands via Apple's retail stores and the good old-fashioned reseller channel. And don't forget the most damning evidence of all: Apple can't be an e-tailer, because Apple makes money. (Ba-dum ching.)
Still, the people over at Nielsen//NetRatings apparently have a different set of criteria than we do-- and as it turns out, that's a good thing. Because since Apple qualifies to them as an e-tailer, that means the company was eligible to make the top five list of "top e-tailers for the month of November." Yes, Apple placed fifth. After all, if it had taken fourth, we'd have said "top four list," right? ("All but four others are number six or lower.") But the only four to do better were some pretty heavy hitters: Amazon (duh), Columbia House, Toys 'R' Us, and Barnes and Noble. So apparently this year, all the online holiday shoppers were going for books, CDs, DVD, toys, and Macs. Heck, that's our Christmas wish list right there!
The real reason why this ranking is so sweet: there's a certain Steve-obsessed, beige-thinking CEO out there somewhere with steam shooting out of his ears right about now-- for you see, Dell.com placed a mere seventh, snagging only 5.7 million pairs of eyeballs compared to Apple's 6.1 million. We picture Mike Dell flogging somebody in the Internet Marketing department, demanding an Apple-beating result when the December ratings roll in under pain of death. Fun times for all.
However, in the interest of displaying the merest pretension of journalistic integrity (heck, we figured we'd try something new for a change), it's probably worth stressing that Nielsen is ranking these sites based purely on how many surfers came clicking through, and not on how much stuff these e-tailers actually managed to sell. We don't have any sales numbers handy, but we think it's a pretty safe bet that when comparing the total amount of cash hauled in by Apple.com and Dell.com respectively, Dell would beat the short pants off our buddies in Cupertino. So far.