Commentary

It Sounds Like An April Fool’s Joke, But It’s True

I’m on a conference call, working on a deal that’s already taken way too long to close. On the call with me are bankers and other folks scattered around the country. The call is tense, even unpleasant at times. I’m holding the phone to my ear with one hand, other hand on my mouse. More sniping on the call, the tension rises. Suddenly I get an email, and I click on it. It’s a press release. Headline: “DoubleClick merges with L90, 24/7 Real Media.” I gasp—will this wave of consolidations never end? I read the headline aloud into the telephone, starting with “You won’t believe this…” Pause. “April fool,” someone says. Oops.

While that one was a joke, this one wasn’t: “Porn viewership on the Web is decreasing.” A few decades ago Denmark legalized all pornography. Danes could freely purchase pictures or movies of anything they wanted to see. Really, anything at all. Moralists worried that the incidence of sexually-related crimes would increase, what with the added stimulation and all. Actually, the reverse happened. The glut of pornography became boring. All those pictures that had previously been forbidden fruit now began to look like ‘Animal Husbandry Illustrated.’ Sex crimes dropped. And perhaps that’s why Web porn viewership is dropping. My father-in-law, who’s 85, is flooded with Web ads for penis enlargers. My young teenage sons have so much free access to Web porn that most of the time I catch them on ESPN.com. Porn may have been a novelty on this freest of media, but like most novelties, it’s gotten old.

And here’s another one that wasn’t a joke: “Hewlett-Packard/Compaq merger vote recount to take six weeks.” SIX WEEKS? Where’s the recount taking place, in Florida? This one smells mighty fishy to me. After all, most HP and Compaq shares are owned by funds, which vote all their shares as a block. Very few shares are owned by individuals, so a count—or a recount—shouldn’t take all that long in this cyber age. Maybe they’re trying to figure out whose computers to use for the recount, or maybe the result of the vote is REALLY close and there’s some backstage deal trying to be worked out.

And here’s one more: “Women’s Web usage is growing faster than men’s.” I guess this is a ‘man bites dog’ story only in the minds of people who still believe women are somehow genetically unable to understand any technology more complicated than the paper clip. But I guess a story like this will prompt some media planners to include Web advertising as a way to reach women.

And speaking of demographics, The New Yorker’s April 1 issue ran an excellent column on why targeting young demographics makes little sense any more. The argument is that younger demographics have no brand loyalty whatsoever, whereas older ones do. So ad money spent against older demographics will have longer-lasting impact. It sounds like an April Fool’s joke, but it’s true.

-- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, one of the web's leading sources for online ad data.

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