IAB Preps Anti-Regulatory Campaign

iab- I am the long tailAs part of what appears to be a lobbying effort aimed at heading off regulation, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has created a video featuring small publishers touting the value of advertising.

The slick, seven-minute clip, "I am the Long Tail," shows more than a dozen online publishers and editors talking about their ad-supported sites.

"Thanks to advertising, we've been able to take our hobby and make it into a business," said a host of the cooking site ShowMeTheCurry.com.

Other entrepreneurs made similar comments. "If I didn't have the online advertising revenue stream, Ask The Builder probably would have folded a long time ago," said AskTheBuilder.com founder Tim Carter.

"Advertising plays a central role in keeping my business alive," added Kevin Savetz, owner of Savetz Publishing.

The publisher of FamilyTravelForum volunteered that the site allowed her to spend more time with her children. "I was tired of getting this message," she said while holding up a handwritten note stating: "We miss you mommy." She added: "I can stay home and do the Web site now. It's totally cool."

No one mentions the current controversy surrounding whether some ad techniques violate Web users' privacy.

The clip was available on the IAB's Web site last week, but had been removed by Tuesday. (A copy was still available Tuesday through Google's cache.) A rough cut was shown at the IAB's annual meeting last month. An IAB representative refused to elaborate on the organization's plans for the clip, other than to say the group was "working towards an important announcement" about the video.

But in January, IAB chief Randall Rothenberg posted a video to YouTube asking small publishers to participate in the clip, which he said would be used for lobbying. "We ... want policymakers and regulators in Washington and our state capitols to recognize that small digital publishers are critical to economic growth," he said. "Politicians are expressing a deep and disconcerting interest in regulating the Internet. We want them to know that this would be a threat to the diversity of speech and communications in the United States."

In the last year, federal and state lawmakers have increasingly expressed concern about whether behavioral targeting, or tracking users across a variety of sites and serving them ads based on their Web history, infringes on people's privacy.

Recently, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) told Reuters he was prepping a bill to regulate online behavioral targeting. In addition, legislation regulating online privacy was introduced in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, although none of those states have enacted new laws yet.

Privacy advocate Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, called the clip an "extremely disingenuous piece of work."

"No one's going to fall for a one-dimensional argument," he said, adding that he alerted other advocates to the video. "Clearly we're going to have to respond with counter-programming."

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