Charge For Searches And Content To Rid Internet Of Ads

Maybe Google, Bing and Yahoo should charge $1 for every search -- and $2 for each piece of content served up. Would consumers pay those prices to avoid having data collected about the types of Web sites they visit?

A "Do Not Track" list to stop online data collection might appease privacy advocates and comply with U.S. Federal Trade Commission guidelines -- but stopping companies from collecting data to serve up ads won't work on the Internet, whose business model, for the most part, relies on free content. But you, more than anyone, should know free comes with a price. In exchange for content, companies can serve up ads that entice you to buy something. It's your job to have the willpower to resist.

Last week the FTC and the Department of Commerce said companies supporting the advertisers lack the ability to self-regulate the multibillion-dollar online ad industry, which relies on tracking technology to keep much of the content on the Web free. The FTC wants to give consumers the ability to opt out of providing data used for marketing purposes.



Are self-regulation efforts spearheaded by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) enough to pacify the FTC? "Yes, they can be," says Mike Zaneis, senior vice president and general counsel at the Interactive Advertising Bureau. "They're not today, but they will be soon enough to meet the goal of the FTC. Increased transparency, easy to use comprehensive choice, and persistency in that choice are the three principles of our self-regulatory program, which is what the FTC wants."

No one argues that the privacy policies are just too complicated to read. But the way privacy advocates position their view makes the whole thing seem a little creepy. So, as part of the ad industry's program to meet regulatory compliance, an icon now appear on ads that leads consumers to an opt-out page and more information. Consumers also should have real-time information on what data is collected on them.

To date, few consumers have clicked on the icon. The IAB and industry execs believe the DAA, which includes several trade groups, has delivered on what the Commission asked for. "We don't expect it to have a meaningful impact on the industry or revenue," says Oren Netzer, CEO and cofounder of DoubleVerify. "

Netzer says there's a lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to online advertising. And if the industry can add accountability and compliance, as a whole, it can flourish. There are about 40 billion impressions being verified per month, and with a push of a button any of the company's advertisers can become compliant, he says.

I'm all for privacy, preventing companies from collecting data they can use to track you through the Internet. In fact, I go out of my way to protect mine. However, other than becoming a recluse, there's a limit to what you can do to protect information about yourself. What's the alternative other than an industry-regulated framework?

I equate entering the online world through the Internet similar to walking out the front door to your home onto a busy New York street and getting hit with billboards and storefront signs.

Maybe this is too simplistic, but my advice to residents of New York, London and other big cities is: shut off the computer and never leave your home. The number of cameras following you from street corner to store front to street corner will boggle the mind.

7 comments about "Charge For Searches And Content To Rid Internet Of Ads".
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  1. Andre Szykier from maps capital management, December 8, 2010 at 1:57 p.m.

    Ok, try this analogous example:

    ISP tracks your packets to see where you came from, where you go and how long you stay. Now sells that information not just to advertisers but to insurance companies, credit debt collectors, medical institutions, govt agencies. Sounds ominous? Well that is what Phorm does in the UK with British Telecom
    ( )

    Other examples:

    Verizon working with the US govt has a division that does voice matching to detect identity of a caller who is a person of interest. Doesn't matter which phone they use, the voice stream is captured and analyzed for a known signature.

    Future forward and couple it with a commercial version of NSA's harvester to look for key words and context. Oh, forgot, that's what Google can already do for Google Chat and Voice.

    Now, why should people not be aware of these activities? Because they fall under government security. But if it falls into the commercial space, I think people should at least know who is tracking them for what purpose. Whether there is a means to opt-out is another discussion.

    Recommend the book "Transparent Society" by David Brin

  2. Jeffrey Chester from CDD, December 8, 2010 at 3:04 p.m.

    You--and others from the industry--present a false choice. We can both protect privacy and have a robust digital marketing environment. Online marketers have embraced a system that has gone too far--online ad exchanges, real-time user auctions, behavioral targeting warehouses, etc.; sensitive information involving our finances, health, children and our ethnic/racial identities are harvested for sale. Users should be empowered through law and regulation to have greater control over their data. Online publishing will actually benefit from a system that protects privacy, as users vote with their data to give sites they favor and trust access and use. Meanwhile, the industry's own data shows that it's the online ad data brokers and middlemen that are reaping the lion's share of ad revenues--not the publishers. We need to have legislation that addresses the proper trade-offs--for privacy, consumer protection and a robust online publishing regime.

  3. David Pavlicko from AVISPL, December 8, 2010 at 5:02 p.m.

    Don't these people remember the internet BEFORE advertisers (and publishers, too!) started tracking everyone? That's the internet they want to bring back? Ugh.

    My advice to these whiners (because that's what they are) is to suck it up - does anyone think for one second that Google, or the feds for that matter, are going to stop tracking you just because you asked. Ha ha

    This has nothing to do with consumer protection, it's all about control and over-regulation. Screw them.

    Nice post by the way, Laurie.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 8, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.

    It is about control and lack of regulation. True, you will be screwed. What free falling advocates don't say is can't get hurt yet and then it will be too late.

  5. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, December 8, 2010 at 9:09 p.m.

    That is a huge hourly rate you are proposing. Why would the internet content per hour of consumption be different than paying to see a first run movie in the theaters which is the ultimate in production value for video. I am not saying your wrong. But it's been my rule of thumb.

    Even at the movie per hour subsidized rate it shows the ROI for internet advertising is massively negative. Just think if businesses that advertise were subsidizing the movie rate of $6-8/hr for every internet user per hour of use that is a massive amount of spending. Probably comes out more that what was spent on digital last year. I think we need to take total spend divide by number of hours for the nation and that's the gross subsidized rate.

    Facebook I think the biggest outside of search for Digital Ad revenues (someone correct me if I am wrong please) generates less than $3 per user per year so far with a network usage of 43mins per user per day. And World of Warcraft I think gets $12-15/month for unlimited monthly gaming.

    But I am all for a pay for content since anyone can block all the ads now with FireFox it would be great to have those that choose to pay for Ad Free to do so. Figuring out what the current rate split between ad networks, host sites and content producers is the key to see what it should cost.

  6. Ross Bradley from Qeg Pty Ltd, December 8, 2010 at 9:20 p.m.

    Laurie Sullivan, if it was only that simple. But it's typical of many articles being 'spun-out' over the past week or, so. For (I truly feel), that you are your many readers do need to 'look under the bonnet' just that little closer, maybe?

    Thanks. I so often love your work.

  7. Ross Bradley from Qeg Pty Ltd, December 8, 2010 at 9:23 p.m.

    < For (I truly feel), that you AND your many readers ...>

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