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.
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.")