Techdirt Podcast Episode 4: In Defense Of Advertising

from the unpopular-opinions dept

Long-time Techdirt readers probably know that we believe great advertising can be great content, and vice versa — but the majority opinion seems to be that all advertising is automatically bad. Recently, Jerry Seinfeld used his acceptance speech for an advertising industry award as an opportunity to trash the very concept of advertising, and John Oliver dedicated a lengthy segment of Last Week Tonight to mocking the idea that native advertising can ever be a positive thing.

In this week’s episode of the Techdirt Podcast, Mike pushes back against the idea that there’s no such thing as good advertising, and that native advertising must always involve a compromise of quality, principles or both, and discusses the delicate balance of advertiser, publication and audience with co-hosts Hersh Reddy and Dennis Yang. If you still haven’t subscribed, you should follow us on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or simply plug the RSS feed into your favorite podcatcher app (we have a few recommendations). Of course, you can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

Also, a big thanks to the Center For New Music for letting us use its podcast studio to record this episode.

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 4: In Defense Of Advertising”

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John85851 (profile) says:

Re: You'll never believe what they found hiding in your stomach.

At least those ads are relevant to tech topics. The ads I see are:
– This grandma is 70, but looks 40. Click here for the miracle.
– Shocking discovery. You’ll never believe what they found hiding in your stomach. (with a gross picture of a fish) Click for video.
– Know your concealed weapon rights. Click here for more.
– This video could start WWIII. Click here to find out.

Luckily, I found the little “x” in the upper-right hand corner that lets me report these as Innappropriate and Irrelevant.

So, we’re back to the original point about ads: if the ad is irrelevant and people won’t click (or if they’ll actively report or block the ad), then what’s the point of spending the money to run the ad?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: You'll never believe what they found hiding in your stomach.

“So, we’re back to the original point about ads: if the ad is irrelevant and people won’t click (or if they’ll actively report or block the ad), then what’s the point of spending the money to run the ad?”

The same reason spam still exists. There’s always a couple of morons who will click or respond no matter what. If you send out, say, 10 million emails (or serve 10 million ads), someone in that group will always respond. If that’s profitable (easy, since there’s little overhead) then the spammer/advertiser has little reason to change.

Anonymous Coward says:

When advertising gets in the way of the web operations by slowing down surfing, spreading malware, and providing a platform for datamining with no good way out, it has went far too far.

At Techdirt alone, I have 36 attempts to connect for datamining. Those are repeat attempts when:


all attempt to connect over and over. The web does not attempt to continue to load until those attempts to connect are over.

So as the beneficiary of attempted datamining that goes hand in hand with advertising it is definitely NOT a benefit to the surfer and user of the net.

Haven’t talked about flashy, ill conceived, methods to attempt to draw your attention nor contents. Nor the issues of security of one’s computer.

Nor can you just up and meaningfully opt out. What few places do allow opt out give you a cookie. One that is gone as soon as you clear your cookies from the browser of all the others that won’t allow an opt out. So unless you take matters into your own hands, you still are not out when you opt out.

I’ve had it right up to the gills with the idea I’m a walking pocketbook full of money that just needs somehow convinced to part with it for their particular product.

The price of that product is raised to cover the advertising. So what do we get out of that price increase? It sure isn’t a better product; rather it’s a more expensive product to support more of the same.

I personally want totally out of the advertising game where you are viewed as the chicken to be plucked. Not once but just as many times as it can be inserted into your view.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

FWIW, Techdirt functions excellently without cookies, scripts, or cross-site requests. That alone is a strong reason I keep coming back. If I have to enable several scripts and requests to get content to load, I simply don’t visit those sites.

Interestingly, I find the less complex (i.e. fewer ads and tracking) sites are usually better sources of information.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I too follow this same reasoning about visiting websites that won’t load unless I have allowed items to load that violate my data integrity. If I visit a site that won’t load because noscript is active there is nothing there so interesting I will unblock it to look. There is always another site within a day that will load pretty much with the same info.

I’m looking at you Newsweek and Bloomberg as just two to name right off the top of my head.

Another favorite trick is to hide the images unless you open yourself up. Guess what? I’m interested in the text and the eyecandy isn’t that important so no dice there either. I will simply find another site for my news sources and leave those out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Advertising is immoral because it allows those with capital to insert their messages into your every day life, thus changing your reality. Money should not be able to buy the consciousness of the masses. If messages were truly meritorious, they would be spread by individuals acting on their own volition and not the coercive power of money.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Advertising is immoral because it allows those with capital to insert their messages into your every day life, thus changing your reality.

I’m curious how you find that to be “immoral”?

If messages were truly meritorious, they would be spread by individuals acting on their own volition and not the coercive power of money.

And if the message is still meritorious, and yet also partly advertising, is that a problem?

You shouldn’t read Techdirt at all, then, since it’s partly advertising for me and for the other things that we do.

Do you have a job? Do you get paid for that job? Do you consider work to be immoral? Because that’s money “changing your reality” too.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Advertising is immoral because it allows those with capital to insert their messages into your every day life”

This is a very curious opinion. Does advertising become moral if done by those without capital? Is it immoral to put a garage sale sign up? What about regular store signage — that’s advertising as well. Is that immoral? Or perhaps there size/brightness/flashiness limits past which it counts as immoral?

In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing inherently immoral about advertising, although it’s possible to advertise in an unethical way.

DannyB (profile) says:

Not all advertising is bad

It is just a conditioned response that advertising that I can hear, and cannot get the sound to stop playing, and cannot close all the popup windows fast enough, is bad.

I understanding that some sites make money from ads.

It is just unfortunate that some extreme excesses tend to ruin advertising for everyone. Sort of like police brutality. The few police brutalizing people on camera are now going to make things difficult for the many police that can go unnoticed every day while brutalizing people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just be careful and don’t make the same mistakes that Revision3 did. If Revision3 had simply used a different server for their torrent releases, then MediaDefender’s DoS attack would not have taken down their entire network, website, email, etc. Although MediaDefender is no longer around, there are several other hired-gun entities (as well as one or two foreign governments) known to launch DoS attacks on file sharing.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

too, um, poddy, didn't look...

no chance at work to look at the podcast to see what rationalizations are used (i’m sure if i wasted some time, i could think of a few, too), but that does NOT negate the FACT that advertising IS NOT measured, and tasteful, and useful, and non-irritating…
sorry, for every example anyone can give of ‘good’ advertising, i bet any of us can come up with a MILLION counter examples; simply saying advertsing *COULD*, CONCEIVABLY be done ‘well’, IGNORES that 99.99% of the time, it is done shittily…
the bottom line for me (most?): advertising IS a form of visual and aural pollution, irritating if not enraging, and of LITTLE TO NO VALUE…
SERIOUSLY, there have been *MAYBE* a couple of times IN MY WHOLE LIFE when advertising just happened to coincide with some prospective purchase, etc… BUT, i PROBABLY would have found out what i wanted to WITHOUT the ads which gave me a teeny tiny headstart on my esearch… it is not like the ads had really difficult to find info or whatever; IT IS ALL puffery and bullshit, NOT salient information that i need…

THE ONLY VALUE i can see from ads, is when the store/whatever is running a sale of limited duration, etc; THAT is useful INFORMATION, but not really ‘advertising’ in the fashion it is presented today…

here is the thing: EVEN IF ALL ads were ‘good’ (however *that* is defined), I STILL DON’T want them in my face/ears all the time, NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY ARE… the sheer volume of them is ‘bad’ REGARDLESS of ‘quality’…

someone has an ox they are trying to keep from being gored, and it ain’t to the benefit of us 99%…

Anonymous Coward says:

It's the amount of advertising that's out of control

Remember when TV programs had 2 minutes (or less) ad time every 10 minutes for a 1/2 hour program and 15 minutes for an hour-long program? Same with radio: 2 minutes or less every 3 or 4 songs. When those days disappeared that’s when the ad-man began being despised, even though the fault lies with the broadcaster for allowing the ad time to increase. Today it’s common for a TV program to have at least one five minute advertising slot, and end credits have been shrunk to unreadable size to make room for more ad time (Yes I know: who reads the end credits anyway?).

As for web pages: the AC above has valid points about web ads that don’t allow the main page to load until they’re done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's the amount of advertising that's out of control

“Remember when TV programs had 2 minutes (or less) ad time every 10 minutes for a 1/2 hour program and 15 minutes for an hour-long program?”

Yes, and we all complained bitterly about it!

TV shows in the 1960s had noticeably fewer and shorter “commercial breaks”, and many shows from the 1940s and 1950s had essentially none (other than the occasional mention of the show’s sponsor).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's the amount of advertising that's out of control

Remember when TV programs had 2 minutes (or less) ad time every 10 minutes for a 1/2 hour program and 15 minutes for an hour-long program?

I remember the time when there were no ads on (Dutch) television, it was paid for by compulsory licensing. Films got broadcast in their entirety.

To those who like the ad-breaks to get a beer in the first break and a loo-visit next, I have this reply:

“If the movie isn’t grabbing my full attention, I can visit the loo without missing much. If the movie is good enough I’ll pee in my pants not to miss anything.”

DorgleFlorgle the Amateurish says:

Re: It's the amount of advertising that's out of control

Just move to the UK! BBC has no ad breaks during programmes and only trailers in between and other channels usually have them every 15(ish) minutes.

Don’t know how US people can cope with ad breaks immediately after the opening credits.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We’ve talked about doing some sort of campaign like Penny Arcade did, where we crowdfund the money to get rid of banner advertising for [x] amount of time, but ultimately, while we think such things are great experiments, we really want to focus on doing something more sustainable.

We do believe that there is good advertising that does have a place on Techdirt — the example mentioned in the podcast is one of our most popular posts of all time, which was a sponsored post that we got paid for. Despite being very clearly a sponsorship piece, it was quality content that not only did extremely well on the site, but also hit the #1 spot on reddit (a community you’d expect to be extra-sensitive to paid content) and drove huge amounts of traffic. There are also things like the Namecheap sponsorship of our switch to HTTPS, where we think our users will appreciate knowing that the company supports us, and thus consider them next time they need a domain or hosting or whatnot, without the need for a lot of intrusive advertising (just a bit of prominent branding & thanks).

So while we do kind of like the idea of raising money directly for the removal of advertising, we’d rather take the slow but steady approach — keep building our base of quality advertising and sponsorship and pushing as much as possible in that direction, plus other revenue streams like the insider shop and our insider subscriptions, to the point that we can phase out banner ads and other lower-quality advertising entirely.

MikeVx (profile) says:

Defending the indefensible

If a business depends on advertising, at either end of the process, the model is not so much broken as disintegrated.

If ads ever had any legitimacy, that is no longer the case. Anything people might want to learn about in the way of products and services can be found via any decent search engine. If you feel the need to shove your product into my face, that tells me you don’t think it capable of standing on merits. If you don’t think much of it, why should I?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Defending the indefensible

um, because THAT approach/defense inexorably leads to the dystopian futures where ads are FUCKING EVERYWHERE, and you can NOT avoid them…

while it looks real gritty and cool in a new scifi movie, it would SUCK in real life… (AS IT DOES to the extent it exists now…)

IT IS SUCKING already: pervasive, inescapable, MADE TO BE annoying, ‘targeted’, and demanding -not just of observing- of interacting…

no, JUST BECAUSE it is possible to spam zillions of people with email doesn’t mean it is either necessary nor desired…
just because it is possible to blanket web pages from edge to edge with craptastic ads, DOES NOT make it imperative we do so…
just because we will either have or adopt holographic tech that allows the sci fi projections, etc, DOES NOT mean we have to stand for such visual pollution to exist…

THE ONLY reason it does to the extent it does now, is we have lost control of the commons…

YOUR ‘neo-golden age of advertising’ is fools gold, based on mere technology annoying greater numbers with less effort… that is not a future (or present) i want: where we are ALL fair game for advertisers to annoy us 24/7/365/OUR WHOLE FUCKING LIVES, in nearly every corner of our existence…

not to mention this TOTALLY BULLSHIT ‘argument’ of ‘but, no, guys, listen, ads can really be creative and interesting and fun, Fun, FUN! ! !’…
that is LESS THAN 1% of all ads, tell me WHY that is going to change in this precious snowflake of a trade, when sturgeon’s law is a universal constant ? ? ?
NO, there will NOT be an unending carnivale of uplifting ads which inspire and amuse us to no end; it WILL BE the same shit, only more of it, and more intrusive…

polishing turds results in shiny turds…

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Defending the indefensible

What exactly do you propose? Ads are free speech too, and companies are going to advertise to you – so banning or eliminating them is both impossible and unpalatable. So what’s the solution?

Nobody’s saying that there will be an instant, easy or complete switch to better quality advertising — but it’s an evolution in a positive direction. Simply raging against it isn’t helping anybody. If the very concept of advertising makes you so angry, I ask again, what do you propose?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Defending the indefensible

what i propose in general, is taking back control of ‘our’ lives (collectively)…

for example, i am about 100% FOR banning roadway billboards, ESPECIALLY now that they are getting more obnoxious with animations, rolling text thingies, etc, VERY distracting…
…and ugly, our world is UGLY, have you noticed ? ? ? (not the ‘natural’ world -what is left- but the world we nekkid apes build…) ads do NOT contribute to ANY sort of ‘beautification’ of our built environment, they simply don’t… i’m tired of an ugly world, ugly on the outside, and ugly on the inside…

(as someone who works in the A/E industry, i know it comes down to this 90-99% of the time: architect and owner have a initial desire to design/build something ‘nice’ (NOT a full blown artistic endeavor, but ‘nice’); but through the process, ALL the ‘artistic’/’nice’ crap gets thrown by the wayside, because it costs moolah… so we end up with blah to ugly buildings because the HIGHEST ‘value’ is cost per square foot, NOT will this building make our world uglier…)

we HAVE managed to either ban or limit billboards in some areas, and i know my eyes just go ‘ahhhh-h-h-h’ because it feels good when they STOP hitting me over the head… (to mix metaphors)…

so, it IS possible to limit advertising in that fashion, and it should be done where we can do so… just because we CAN carpet ‘our’ (sic) world from edge to edge with billboards, vinyl car/bus signage, times square type building lights and blinking signs, and ads laid in the floor of the grocery store, on the shelves, in our eyes, in our ears, in our faces, EVERY-fucking-WHERE, does it follow we MUST do that ? ? ?

well, if we allow advertisers free reign, YES, they WILL do that: it will NOT be tasteful and measured and scarce, it will be a cacophony of a million voices imploring us to buy this or that stupid shit 24/7/365… at this point, the advertisers have SUPERIOR free speech rights, because they can plaster ads just about EVERYWHERE, i have no similar ‘right’ for my pitiful free speech…

JUST LIKE (so-called) free speech for mere human beans is increasingly limited (if not shoved into a ‘free speech zone’); but we CAN’T limit ‘commercial’ speech of fictitious korporate personages (as an INFERIOR subset of ‘free speech’) ? ? ?

IF so, that is not right…
we are living in a world being optimized for fictitious legal entities called korporations, NOT for the actual human beans who LIVE HERE… that is not right…

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Defending the indefensible

So let’s look at some basic examples…

If I live in a small to medium town, and I’ve just finished training as a landscaper or a roofer and now want to go into business, can I put some flyers up around town? Can I ask the friends and family who are my first few clients to put a sign on their lawn for a week, with my name and number? Or would you rather see laws banning that activity?

Does banning roadway billboards apply to the farmers on country roads who put up big signs during harvest season advertising their fresh vegetables and pies for sale?

Here at Techdirt, is it wrong of us to put a thanks & a link to Namecheap in the header in exchange for them sponsoring our SSL switch? Should that be somehow banned — even though it would likely mean we’d have taken longer, or had to sacrifice more in other places, in order to be able to properly secure our website for our readers?

It’s not that I’m trying to say the majority of advertising is like this — I concede that it’s mostly very loud and annoying, and I’m not always thrilled with its pervasiveness either. But ultimately, it is a form of speech, so you can’t treat it as flippantly as you are — how is it possible to ban it without hugely impinging on free speech? Advertising happens on private property — so are you calling for laws that dictate what kinds of signs/structures/etc. people can put up on their private property?

Maybe there’s a way to do that — by somehow delineating a public nuisance, such that advertising falls afoul of regulations in the same way excessive noise or obscenity might — but that still seems like a touchy issue that, at least, must be handled with extreme care, and not the BOMBASTIC certainty of CAPS-laced RANTS that you offer…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Defending the indefensible

“If a business depends on advertising, at either end of the process, the model is not so much broken as disintegrated.”

So, what’s your preferred model? Stop with half-assed attacks and try something constructive. If we are to get rid of advertising completely, which method(s) is best for a business to promote itself and/or support itself

“Anything people might want to learn about in the way of products and services can be found via any decent search engine”

Sitting around and waiting for people to literally stumble across your product isn’t exactly a sustainable business model. It never has been, which is why advertising exists in the first place.

“If you feel the need to shove your product into my face, that tells me you don’t think it capable of standing on merits”

If you feel that “sticking the product in your face” is the only kind of advertising, you’re missing most of what is advertising. While those ads do exist, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Many ad methods are problematic, and I don’t want to defend the entire industry. But, realistically, they are necessary in many ways – unless you have constructive alternatives, of course.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Defending the indefensible

i’m curious, HOW DID businesses survive before pervasive advertising, newspapers, magazines, teevee ? ? ?
i mean, since businesses (according to you) simply CAN NOT survive without advertising, HOW did ANY business manage to EXIST before advertising ? ? ?

you aren’t making sense…

the problem isn’t that AN INDUSTRY CAN’T survive without advertising, the problem is that there are 100 versions of XYZ Corp in that industry vying for the SAME slice of pie, THAT is what advertising is doing: pushing the money to a particular company in that industry, the industry would STILL be necessary (presumably), and would not wither and die if there was no advertising, ONLY THE ‘extra’ production of some companies would wither and die…

(which is how so-called free-market capitalism is supposed to work…)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Defending the indefensible

“HOW did ANY business manage to EXIST before advertising ? ? ?”

Usually by having very small local catchment areas, where advertising was usually done by word of mouth, or where they were the only reasonable option in a small local community. Surprise, those tactics don’t really scale to cities very well, let alone national or global markets like the ones they have today. With any competition, people had to market themselves, which might have meant a entry in the local newspaper or yellow pages, a poster or billboard (people standing on street corners with signs before permanent billboards became common), some publicity stunt or similar. This has been happening for hundreds of years in larger cities.

Again, rather than whining about the current state of things, perhaps one of you might propose an actual solution that would allow companies (especially smaller, newer companies, especially those with products unfamiliar to the masses) to reach their customers without such advertising?

“businesses (according to you) simply CAN NOT survive without advertising”

Why is reading comprehension such a poor commodity around here? I didn’t say that, I said that a company is not going to reach its customer base by waiting for them to stumble across them, as per the request of the previous poster. Do you have another solution?

Stop whining, where’s your constructive alternative solution?

“the problem is that there are 100 versions of XYZ Corp in that industry vying for the SAME slice of pie”

So, your problem is with competitive markets, then. Again, what’s your solution and/or alternative ways to compete? If you’re going to say better products, higher quality, etc. – how does the company let its potential customers know that it has them?

“(which is how so-called free-market capitalism is supposed to work…)”

You appear to be clueless about what the words you use actually mean. Free market capitalism does not mean that “extra” production is not encouraged.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Defending the indefensible

“before advertising”? When was that, exactly? From Wikipedia:

Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. Commercial messages and political campaign displays have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Arabia. Lost and found advertising on papyrus was common in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

In ancient China, the earliest advertising known was oral, as recorded in the Classic of Poetry (11th to 7th centuries BC) of bamboo flutes played to sell candy. Advertisement usually takes in the form of calligraphic signboards and inked papers. A copper printing plate dated back to the Song dynasty used to print posters in the form of a square sheet of paper with a rabbit logo with “Jinan Liu’s Fine Needle Shop” and “We buy high quality steel rods and make fine quality needles, to be ready for use at home in no time” written above and below[11] is considered the world’s earliest identified printed advertising medium.[12]

Anonymous Coward says:

…what do you propose?

I have a proposal that works for me. That is I block every friggin’ thing possible and if one makes it through I take the time to ensure that is the first and last time it does so.

I carry it a bit farther than just what happens at my computer as well. When I go to the store, if a product sits right there on the shelf and annoyed me with an ad, I will walk by that one for something else. The exact opposite behavior that ads are not supposed to do.

The constant bombardment of the commercial is completely out of hand. It was one of the major items convincing me to give up tv to have some peace. Yeah, I do hate them that bad.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“When I go to the store, if a product sits right there on the shelf and annoyed me with an ad, I will walk by that one for something else.”

Ironically, choosing that other product via the marketing techniques they use such as branding, shelf placement, possibly even price and other promotions within the store.

I admire your stance, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not being advertised to just because you’re already in a store. It’s not possible to avoid marketing completely in the modern world, so you have to choose your battles wisely.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am well aware of product placement. I shop for value for the buck. A product that works, isn’t totally watered down, or some such similar.

While it may not be possible to 100% avoid all advertising, that isn’t what I am doing and you have misread that part in my statements. It is the annoying, continual bombardment, eye jarring, and irratating beyond measure advertising that I will not accept.

As such I long ago chose my battle. Know what? I’ve enough practice I am winning that part too. Don’t drive much so I’m not exposed to it on the road, not exposed to it through public media, and I am very happy with that. I did not realize just how peaceful it got to remove such from my life.

So why would I support more of what I hate? I see no reason to change or alter what I am doing that is working far better than just trying to ignore it.

David (profile) says:

Lots of different sides to come at for this.

Consider your sponsored article, then consider something very similar, but not quite the same: An article on Anandtech comparing hard drives.

In a very real sense, the Anandtech article could be considered advertising. It’s presenting information on a topic that’s relevant to the readers, and may motivate them to buy one of the mentioned items. At the same time, though, it’s not paid advertising, because as soon as money starts changing hands with respect to reviews, the validity of said review is called into question.

Likewise when someone notes how happy they are with product X (such as the Namecheap thing you mention, ignoring any money for now), it’s presumed to be an honest recommendation (until astroturf campaigns are brought into the picture), and helpful to the status of that product. IE: word-of-mouth advertising.

Once you start paying to place your ads, though, things get all kinds of funky. If you’re spending money to place an ad, there’s a natural tendency to want to get your money’s worth for it. That is, get back at least as much money as you spent, else why did you bother in the first place? That then leads to maximum value for minimum investment: spend as little as possible to get as much ‘notice’ as possible. That naturally leads to the intrusive and annoying advertising we’ve become so accustomed to.

To avoid this, you need one of two things: Either present the ads only to those who actually want that specific information (which leads to today’s tracking culture), or care more about the impression of the ad itself than you do about the product being advertised (which may not be monetarily optimal, and thus may be shut down by corporate culture).

Someone made mention of the fact that local advertising doesn’t scale in a global market. That, I think, is part of the fundamental problem. Local advertising (in the oldest sense) carries with it a certain degree of ‘responsibility’. You have to answer personally to the guy you sold stuff to when you meet him at the grocery store, or whatever. To get it to scale, the people you’re selling to change from people to numbers on a spreadsheet, with no intrinsic value except the little dollar sign in the next column.

So I’d think that ‘good’ advertising would have to combine two factors:

1) Locality (for a given definition of ‘local’, which may not be geographic), with direct responsibility to and connection with the target audience.

2) Cost indifference. Create the best ad for the target locality, with the focus on the ad (and, by inference, company; see: brand loyalty), not the product.

You can see both of those factors in effect with both the sponsored article, and things like the Superbowl ads.

If you focus on efficiency and cost returns, and ignore the audience as anything except another set of eyeballs with a wallet, you end up with the litany of horrors that is advertising in today’s world. Likewise, locality is in direct conflict with spam, since spam pretty much by definition can’t be local. Advertising networks are at sort of a halfway point on locality, but discard direct connection or responsibility in favor of cost efficiency.

Various other aspects of ads can be brought up, and each one I can think of are either directly in line with or in direct conflict with one of the above two points, and which side of the fence they’re on pretty well defines whether I’d consider them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ advertising.

And finally we roll all the way back to the original issue of how to deal with this on the content producer’s side of things.

Since the content provider pretty much defines the locality, they must also then take direct responsibility for the ads that they serve. If the advertiser wants fine-tuned advertising, why aren’t they asking the advertiser to explicitly associate specific ads with articles that match that particular advertising (eg: hard drives and NAS servers with a hard drive review, not video card ads, or putting them with a video card review, etc)? Well, that’s more work, and demanding that work without compensating with higher pay isn’t going to fly. On the other hand, it’s also an extension of the idea of ‘locality’, and one that only the content provider can provide.

The responsibility also carries over into web security. If I know that an advertising network has served virus-laden ads in the past, I am never going to allow them to show ads on my system directly. If you (as a content provider) want me to see them, you need to vet them yourself to show to me, and bear responsibility if there’s a problem.

Likewise, direct sponsorship type articles can’t happen without a rather direct connection with the company doing the sponsoring, and the belief by the audience that the content is still actually content, and not the content provider simply selling out for a few bucks.

So: Locality; Responsibility; Cost Indifference.

Someone may be able to put that into something catchier, and put together a more comprehensive analysis of the idea. I’m aware that there are technical hurdles involved in offloading the ads from the advertising network, for the sake of web security (and in fact, offloading introduces a different security problem, so it’s bad either way), so the content provider should at least be able to perform an audit of exactly what’s being served. Likewise, dealing with the advertising network’s tracking policies. Maybe they could advertise (heh) a ‘premium’ ad network with more stringent requirements on the overall handling of the process. The content provider provides additional value by doing the targeting in place of the advertiser network, and is thereby paid more for that service.

So many more details that could be considered, but this is already hella long, so, meh.

Addendum: Now actually finished the podcast, and a few points intersect with some of what I wrote above.

Patrick Paolucci (user link) says:

Advertising isn't sentient

You all say “advertising” like it has a life of its own. It’s marketers, the blackest of black hearts, and consumers, the most pointless form of human life. Obviously, that interaction will come to tears.

Simple solution. 1). Don’t reward people for creative lies. Spend the money on making a better product. 2). Teach people to be producers and have that mindset, even when they’re consuming. Go from consuming because everyone else is to consuming in order to produce what you need. Which means knowing yourself. Which makes it harder for a marketer to tell you who you are.

It all flows.

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