QoTD: Michael Tiffany
The fundamental value proposition of these ad tech
companies who are de-anonymizing the Internet is,
spend big CPMs on branded sites when I can get them on
Five-cent guide to how to be a top one percent freelance writer without having to learn to write very well
Always turn in your stuff on deadline, at the right length, in the correct format. Read the contributor's guide and do the basics of what it says. Don't spell anyone's name wrong. Welcome to the top 20%.
Learn your subject to the point where you know more than 3 out of 4 members of the audience. This might be hard or not depending on the subject and how many stories you can sell on related subjects. Get the facts right and answer the questions that an informed reader would ask. Welcome to the top 5%.
Don't just write down a bunch of stuff, tell a story. This takes practice, but there are basic plots that people don't get tired of hearing so you can borrow one of those.
Now you've done it. Congratulations. You're still not getting paid, because some adtech weasels are going to track the people who read your stuff and sell them ads on cat GIFs, so the advertisers can pay some bottom-feeder site instead of the original content site that you write for. But congratulations.
QoTD: John Barnes
As a publisher we feel we've been raided by the ad
industry. We've done site audits and been flabbergasted
by how many third party cookies have been dropped on
our site by commercial partners – they were stealing
Making the rounds
Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful is making the rounds.
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.
like to quote John Wanamaker's famous
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
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.
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.
So when Houston writes,
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.
Happy Labor Day
Happy Labor Day. Have some work and employment links. Or not, considering that they're about jobs and stuff.
Gervais / MacLeod 4: a world without Losers? (part of a great series by Michael O. Church, which starts with Gervais Principle questioned: MacLeod’s hierarchy, the Technocrat, and VC startups.)
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:
complicated voicemail systems
Styrofoam packing peanuts
not just a bunch of legal jibber-jabber. How about it?
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.
If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!