Commentary

Fool Me Once? Interesting. Fool Me Twice? That's A Good Business Model!

One of the best pieces of criticism I’ve read lately showed up on MediaPost on Thursday.  Ari Rosenberg, founder of Performance Pricing LLC, made the unsubtle point that, by spoken word and written document, the Interactive Advertising Bureau ignores the people who actually use the Internet.

Ultimately, that's the constituency they are serving.

“IAB Talks About Consumers But Doesn’t Listen To Them” was the headline.

And the story apparently hit a nerve. It was amply shared by readers and commented on, and it got me thinking about the disconnect that exists between what we say is true about digital media--that the “user is in control”--and what really is true: The Internet is the caveat emptorest place there is.  

It’s not just the IAB that seems to want to work around the people who consume digital media. It’s the whole business. There is no bright line of taste or decency the Internet won’t cross. That’s not a compliment.  

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It's a medium without a statesman. There's no Murrow, no Newton Minow, no serving-the-public-interest mandate. 

Even the safeguards to make sure your computer isn’t hacked are often bogus. Those pop-up warnings that your laptop is in mortal danger are usually bull. Isn't that kind of a red flag?

Widely circulated Internet stories are often bull. The once common criteria for headline writing--they should be accurate and enticing--is a value of another time. Now, the ideal headline--a vague nudge of the scandalous news just a click way--is a sought after skillset.  

Even bad lies, wild untruths are golden.  On YouTube, endorsers may “sincerely” hawk products but often, as Stephen Colbert plays it on TV, sometimes it’s just the game we’re all playing.

The awful comments posted in response to videos or written content are often vile, racist, violent and libelous, but they are also usually anonymous. There aren’t many gatekeepers. Few sites seem obliged to do the right thing. There’s no money in principles.

So I’d say, when consumers use ad blockers, it is their response to an Internet environment that doesn’t very often look out for them, or even communicate with them. It’s their turn. The message some Web sites now post imploring readers to turn off their ad blockers is probably the only time those sites have had a personal communication with them.

Missing from the Internet is any strong fidelity with its users.

There’s no tradition, and in fact, just the opposite. That allows freewheelin’ freedoms--a really good thing. But suggesting there should be rules, for the sake of the public, is derided as moralizing. And who are we to judge? A week ago, Gawker's former editor in chief under oath, testified that he would draw the line at distributing a sex video of a celebrity under 4-years old. (A Gawker spokesman later said he was being "flippant.")

Consumers, to a large part of the Internet population, are objects to be compartmentalized and tracked and targeted. But respected? Take a mental count of how many times the Internet tries to fool you on a daily basis. And then ask yourself: Why should anybody do them any favors?
pj@mediapost.com
3 comments about "Fool Me Once? Interesting. Fool Me Twice? That's A Good Business Model!".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, March 18, 2016 at 4:21 p.m.

    I used to think the ability to track consumer behavior and preference through web site use and social media interests was kind of cool. The reason why it's not so cool now is not the privacy issue, it's the fallacy that that behavior actually reveals a consumer mindset, or that it leads to business results. When so much of the behavior is coaxed through false headlines, suspicious ad content, and downright ad fraud, it's no wonder consumers are creating their own roadblocks and giving a good ole F U to people who try to lecture them otherwise.

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, March 18, 2016 at 4:54 p.m.

    Absolutely true, Jonathan. Observed behavioral data misses huge and vast things we need to know - misses so many that it can be absolutely useless. A friend of mine worked at an accounting software company. They started targeting people based on their online behavior. Heck, if they spend a lot of time looking into their software they must be a good prospect...right? WRONG. They were mostly out of work people wanting to be able to claim they knew the software. The absolutely WORST prospects.

    Here's a bit I wrote based on the risk of observational data based on paleontologists. The problem is we never know what we DON'T see...and what we don't see may make all the difference. http://www.atomicdirect.com/blog/communication/reading-the-fossil-record-why-mobile-retail-tracking-can’t-replace-focus-group-research/

  3. Christian Sandlin from SEVEN Networks, March 18, 2016 at 6:06 p.m.

    This was essentially the argument I was making in the comments and the article I wrote. I won't link it again to make it seem like I'm marketing. It's about autonomy. When this environment drains data on mobile, tracks users, and increases their safety and privacy risks, this is the response. What confuses me is that there was a unanimous consensus that pop ups were annoying, dangerous, and intrusive. Where is this perspective now?

    The IAB fights to create a lens of a capitalist transaction for the public to view this situation through. As someone that markets an ad blocker, I try very hard to appeal to the less savvy with common sense. I can choose not to watch ads on television, yet I'm watching March Madness right now and can't change the volume on my Mac during a commercial break. I'm sure the average person would be appalled by someone taking access of their TV. 


     


     

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