Older blog entries for dmarti (starting at number 523)

Making the rounds

Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful is making the rounds.

Doc Searls Weblog

Slashdot interview (Click "Hide/Show Transcript" for text.) Thanks to Roblimo for the opportunity. From the comments: YttriumOxide is using Facebook ads for a book on psychedelics, and Znork makes an interesting point about temporal targeting of users. And an anonymous comment:

The problem is that most people don't understand how advertising succeeds. It does not succeed by eliciting the "Shut up and take my money!" response, as most people assume. If it did, then targeted ads would be the way to go. But "banner blindness" has long been recognized, and click-throughs are generally pathetic.

However, advertising remains successful by subtly, gently shaping your awareness, tastes and motivation on every level from lifestyle, to lifestyle accessories, to brands, to products, to sellers.

Most people resist the notion that they are manipulated in this way, and thus cling to the "logic" of targeted advertising and the belief that it can only benefit them by presenting them with deals for items that they happen to be on a hair trigger to buy.

That model might work, but it is not the model of advertising that works now, and the latter is the point of Marti's argument -- that targeted ads are undermining the existing successful aspects of advertising. Worse, they do so by taking the worst performing facet of advertising, and positing a "fix" that will allow it to replace the best facets.

It isn't just a choice between direct response or subtle manipulation, though. Advertising does carry a signal that it's in your interest to be able to interpret, and the less that the ad is specific to you, the more information about the advertiser's intentions it carries.

In the pre-web media environment, I spent a few minutes of dealing with direct marketing per day, sorting my postal mail and handling cold calls. But I spent a lot more time with the signalful advertising in newspapers, magazines, and on TV. Somehow the balance of how much targeted and non-targeted material I have to deal with has changed a lot. And I get way, way less value from advertising now.

Adtech proponents like to quote John Wanamaker's famous saying, half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half, and, of course, then add that with the next generation of adtech, that waste will go away. But it can't. Advertising is an exchange of value: the advertiser gives information (not just the content of the ad, the signal that the ad exists at all, and where it appears) in exchange for attention. When targeted advertising tries to change the deal, and ask for attention without offering anything in return, users respond by blocking the worthless ads.

Syndicated 2013-10-11 10:54:09 from Don Marti

QoTD: Kate Losse

[I]n the case of big tech companies like Facebook, the way power is structured means that you too are being treated like a feminized, powerless individual regardless of who you are. Facebook assumes that you, its user, aren’t as smart as Facebook’s engineers, that its algorithms know what is best for you, that you won’t notice or care if your privacy is violated, and that even if it violates your privacy or shares your content without asking you it will get away with it. Facebook is the Man, and you are his servant, regardless of your gender or race. On Facebook, we are all women, making ourselves respectable in hopes that society will be nicer to us than it is to others.

Kate Losse

Syndicated 2013-10-03 18:03:43 from Don Marti

Solution to ad blocking

Peter Houston covers the problem of annoying web ads, and the ad blocking that more and more users are turning to, in The solution to ad-blocking? Don't run ads people want to block.

Trying to increase relevance by turning up the creepy level is likely to increase ad blocking, not reduce it. The more that people learn about how targeted advertising works, the less they like.

So when Houston writes, Another potential solution is personalisation-ad targeting based on data profiling-but that raises the concern that advertisers and publishers are overstepping the mark when it comes to targeting promotions using personal data. Anyone that has visited a website only to be mercilessly stalked by its ads for the remainder of their onward journey across the web understands how creepy that can be, he’s half right. But creepy targeting doesn't just fail to help the medium, it hurts.

I have a longer explanation of that, but another way to look at it is this. Conversations, including business conversations, are two-way: both buyer and seller ask for attention and provide information. Real advertising is one-way, but the advertiser is offering information and asking for attention. That’s not just the information in the ad. The ad’s existence, and the fact that it’s running in a certain place, are valuable information about the advertiser’s intentions.

But targeted advertising, like email spam, telemarketing, and cold calling before it, is one-sided. The selling side is both collecting and using information and asking for attention. Humans dislike cold calls so much that we have programmed machines to avoid them, and now people are programming spam filters and ad blockers to dodge them.

Houston is right about making better ads and getting the web to work more like print, but there's still a missing piece. If we really want to increase trust in web advertising as a medium, we need to fix the privacy bugs in browsers that make creepy targeting possible, or at least get out of the way of people who are fixing them. Real advertisers should be backing the Cookie Clearinghouse and similar privacy efforts.

Bonus link: How California’s imminent Do Not Track law falls short – and why it matters anyway

Syndicated 2013-09-24 14:58:17 from Don Marti

QoTD: Theodore Ts'o

A HWRNG is by definition something that can't be tested. Statistical tests are not sufficient to prove that the HWRNG has not been gimmicked.

Theodore Ts'o

Syndicated 2013-09-06 14:10:01 from Don Marti

QoTD: Cathy O’Neil

I for one would be willing to give someone a sliver of the amount saved every time they manipulated my online persona to save me money. You save me $1.00, I’ll give you a dime.

Cathy O’Neil, mathbabe

Syndicated 2013-09-01 15:05:29 from Don Marti


A little while ago, I said something about how the adtech scene is out of touch with regular people. Just found a good example.

John Battelle writes that the solution to getting people to accept creepy web ads is...long weaselly Terms of Service documents!

Quite a concept. You can get people to like one unnatural behavior that only makes sense inside the corporate filter bubble by using another unnatural behavior that only makes sense within the corporate filter bubble.

We're doing stuff that makes you really uncomfortable, privacy-wise, but that's perfectly fine, because it's all in that long Terms of Service document that you automatically agree to by visiting our site.

Unfortunately, this might not be going far enough. In order to really get people to accept creepy targeted ads, the advertisers will need to add in:

  • clamshell packaging

  • complicated voicemail systems

  • Styrofoam packing peanuts

not just a bunch of legal jibber-jabber. How about it?

Syndicated 2013-08-23 14:08:37 from Don Marti

Virtual cartoon police for the web

Remember this story from Global Voices a while ago?

...the police in China's capital, Beijing, will start patrolling websites registered on Beijing servers using animated police officers that pop up in a user's browser....According to the Associated Press, the cartoon cops can walk, bike or drive across the screen every 30 minutes, warning Internet users to stay away from illegal Internet content and bad websites.

How about we make something similar for sites in the USA?

Some cute NSA characters, and a little tasteful JavaScript and CSS to show one in action on your site every so often, along with a true fact about Internet surveillance here.

Your hosting provider probably just wants to put some lipstick on the pig, wait for the surveillance story to drop out of the headlines, and go back to business as usual. But once you put a JavaScript thingy in a site template, it tends to stay there.

I'll be adding an animation with a placeholder image to this site...any cartoonists out there want to do some sketches?

Syndicated 2013-08-20 14:31:32 from Don Marti

Adversariality and web ads

I have an RSS feed aggregator that subscribes to feeds from people in the online ad business, and also from people looking at the online ad business from the outside. Why does it sound like one group is talking about targeted ads as ponies everyone wants, and the other is talking about them as rats to be exterminated?

From within the online ad business, increasingly detailed tracking, profiling, and targeting of users is a great idea. A recent example, from Jeremy Ozen, is The Ad Industry Must Stand Up for the Collection of Mobile Data.

Meanwhile, everyone else who writes about online ads just wants to avoid being tracked, profiled, and targeted. Here's a recent example of that. Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing covers a browser plugin intended to make it harder to profile your traffic based on surveillance.

So why the big difference? Why does adtech seek relevance, but regular people avoid it? Let's see if I can put it in 140 characters.

I'm interested in what your company says to existing customers, the public, and your mom, not what you'll say on my doorstep to make a sale.

How's that? More in Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful

Bonus links

Seth Godin: No one ever bought anything on an elevator

The Ad Contrarian: Playing The Other Guy's Game and 4 Reasons For Advertising's Radical Remake

Jonathan Mayer To 'Do Not Track' Working Group: I Quit (via Doc Searls Weblog)

How low-paid workers at 'click farms' create appearance of online popularity (via The New Inquiry)

Print Is Dead? 'Vogue' Has Its Second Biggest Issue Ever

Benefits of advertising include the placebo effect? Drug ads may enhance drug performance

The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership - Bloomberg (via John Battelle's Search Blog and Comment is free: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty)

Bob Garfield: The Natives Are Feckless: Part One Of Three (via Doc Searls Weblog)

Data Brokers Don't Know You From A Naked Man Stumbling On The Beach

34 Insights From Nassim Taleb (via The Big Picture)

Syndicated 2013-08-19 13:30:14 from Don Marti

Hijacking the Internet

Who's really hijacking the Internet?

Back in the day, the "agency discount" for advertising was 15 percent. That means that every time your company bought a magazine ad, the publishing company got 85% and the ad agency got 15%.

For a typical business or tech magazine, the subscription price paid for the printing and postage, and the advertising paid for the reporters, editors, photographers, and designers. And things pretty much worked. Business or tech media wasn't the most lucrative job in the world, but people could make a living at it.

Now let's look at the publisher's share for web ads. It's about 25% to 45%. Instead of an ad agency spending 15% of your ad budget on salaries, rubber cement, and three-martini lunches, you now have a bewildering array of adtech middleweasels spending 55-75% of your ad budget on Macbooks Pro (is that even the right plural—hell with it, copy editing was the first thing to go) artisan coffee, Big Data, and gourmet food trucks.

It's an example of the Internet making an industry less efficient. Which should be in an Economics paper somewhere, but really, we need to find honest work for software developers now stuck in adtech. And for real advertisers to quit the adtech-captured IAB, but you knew that.

Syndicated 2013-08-17 19:07:58 from Don Marti

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