What Makes a Good Gift Guide?

Building a good gift guide can also involve delving into the psychology of an outlet’s audience. “Who typically reads your gift guide — what do they care about, who do they care about, what kind of budget are they usually working with?” Ms. Moss said. “Gift guides should include a mix of things that the shoppers already know about, and related products that they may not know about.”

And while they’re not necessarily useful, there’s also enjoyment to be had in a wildly impractical gift guide, like those published by Robb Report and Air Mail. These guides captivate (a $12,000 model train set!), enrage (the 30.42 carat diamond necklace Martha Stewart wore on her Sports Illustrated cover!) and arouse jealousy or even horror (a personalized mural by a famous artist for your private jet and a three-night stay at a former Italian monastery!).

The absurdity of luxury gift guides’ inflated price tags ($17,000 tulip vase, anyone?) is also what makes them addictively perusable. They allow those of us without the budget for a $358 porcelain box in the shape of a baguette, to imagine a life in which buying that kind of thing might be normal. Like materialism make-believe, or the e-commerce equivalent of watching “The Real Housewives, they inspire pure, unadulterated voyeurism twinged with a healthy dose of shock at how the other half does the holidays.

Goop, the wellness and lifestyle company founded by Gwyneth Paltrow, was perhaps singularly made for this moment.

“Each year, we start thinking about the gift guides a year in advance and file away the coolest, most genuine, delicious things we’ve seen for months ahead of time,” said Roxanne Marie, Goop’s senior director of fashion.

Goop’s “Ridiculous but Awesome” gift guide this year includes a weeklong blimp ride to the North Pole (Goop editors call it an “airship”), a $400 hunk of Parmesan cheese and a custom-built safe for all of your rubies (which, at $11,000, you might have to sell to afford the safe). The joy of the Goop holiday gift guide is that it consists almost entirely of things you couldn’t possibly have known even existed unless you’re in the 37 percent tax bracket.

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