Can Ad Targeting Work Without A Better Internet?

I noticed quite a few really smart people at the latest South by Southwest interactive (SXSWi) conference expressed their discontent with the overall quality of the Internet. That's aside from the World Wide Web Inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who during a keynote said that "The reason the Internet sucks today is because we haven't fixed it yet. … We messed up."

During another session, David Weinberger, co-director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and the author of numerous works on people and technology, said something very similar: "The United States Internet infrastructure is totally fucked up. There's a lot of conversation to be had [about the subject], but that's where it starts."

Weinberger delivered one of the SXSW keynotes in 2003, and for reasons unknown, hasn't been back since,  "Our culture has a picture of how knowledge works, which is essentially false: start with facts and build on top," he said.

Data doesn't lie, according to many, but what if the facts related to targeting ads are incorrect? I need to make it clear that Weinberger wasn't talking about ad targeting, but rather the accuracy of information on the Web.



The biggest problem is, "we have been willing to give up accuracy" in some data because it often corrects itself through other complementary data, such as comments in posts. Is the data reliable? Can it establish authority, or should we consider the source's credibility? He defined credibility as "should you believe this" vs. authority defined as "a belief in something because of the credibility of that source."

There's so much on the Web today that's not entirely true. Do we start with accuracy to gain credibility? What do you think?

4 comments about "Can Ad Targeting Work Without A Better Internet?".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, March 15, 2013 at 3:05 p.m.

    A better question seems to be whether ad targeting will deliver on the out of control expectations that have been used to sell it. If it had that potential, I would expect it would already be reflected with far higher prices for online ads. Yet online vendors continue to have to offer tremendously discounted advertising compared with other mediums.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 15, 2013 at 4 p.m.

    Is the internet working better for these needs in another country ? If it is, then what is the difference (including culture, governments, economy) that makes the World WIde Web better ? I certainly do not know.

  3. Rodney Mayers from Google, March 15, 2013 at 5:24 p.m.

    The fact that there are many voices/sources of content unto itself suggests credibility because it gives us the opportunity to determine accuracy on the topic versus the source.

    Credibility comes from a representation of all facts. The existence of all points of view means that whoever publishes has to understand they may be proven or dis-proven in a manner of minutes. It allows the system to correct inaccuracies versus over-weighting any one particular source.

    Fewer sources means lower credibility. There was a lot of misinformation in the world before the Internet. Misinformation is tremendously powerful if there is no way to fact check the source.

    Let's not blame the Internet for human nature. The Internet has simply facilitated the speedy communication of untruths and partial truths. It therefore still requires our analog scrutiny which can be augmented based on our own research versus blind faith in any "credible" source.

  4. David Weinberger from Evident Marketing, Inc., March 16, 2013 at 10:23 a.m.

    Thanks, Laurie, for picking up on this topic.

    Let me correct a misimpression I left. When I said that the Internet infrastructure is, um, effed up, I was referring specifically to the way in which we access the Net in this country: We have handed access to a set of regional monopolies/duopolies/cartels that provide service that is slower and more expensive than in most of the developed world. But your point remains.

    Also, while it is certainly true that there are many lies and falsehoods on the Web, I think our pursuit of knowledge is FAR better off there than it was when knowledge was expressed on paper. In fact, the Web is making clear just how fractious our ideas have _always_ been, and it's better to know that we don't all agree than to act as if we all do. (I agree with Rodney Mayers in comment #3.)

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