A War We Should Try To Avoid

“Ads are being cast as the enemy as consumers find more and more ways to block them.”

This Ad Age article paints a pretty scary future, and I’m not just worried about all of the industries and jobs that depend on the ad business or the impact on entertainment and content production that is currently ad-sponsored. The real concern is the continued trend towards class-ism, where those who can afford to pay premiums receive a significantly different experience than those who can’t. We already have riots of metro bus riders upset over Google buses, do we want to separate Jimmy Fallon’s audience into warring factions the same way we have San Francisco commuters? We already exclude some of the world’s best content behind expensive paywalls at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, even Ad Age (although they at least offer a few free articles per month), effectively excluding the financially-disadvantaged from having the same cultural, business and news resources as those of us with a subscription.

Now I’m not saying that an ambitious but underprivileged future Warren Buffet can’t scrape his pennies together for the WSJ subscription that’s going to make him the next bond-trading mogul, because anyone who has the savvy to understand that heady prose can probably find $12 a month through some clever means, but what will the internet become when every great piece of content requires a fee? First, each site will start their own pay model, and we’ll pick the ones that are most important to us, and abandon the rest. Users will consolidate into closed subscription groups, rather than graze the entirety of the digital buffet as we do now. The pressure on smaller sites will be too great as they find fewer and fewer subscribers, and they will need to join forces with networks of sites in order to survive. Soon, broad subscriptions will encompass collections of content and consumers will need to choose between collections, won’t want to pay the outlay of more than one large collection, and will cease to explore anything outside their subscription group. And then what do we have?

Cable, that’s what. We have cable. Is that what you want, world? You want the internet’s cost structure to mirror that of Comcast? Think about that for a minute before you block all the ads, because unless you want to be trapped in a content monopoly and pay a monstrous monthly fee for the few “channels” you are interested in because that’s the only way to access them, then you’d better start appreciating the advertisers that take on all the risk to give you a free internet on the off-chance they can sell a few widgets, because our “free exchange of information” internet is about to be far from free.

Source: Yes, There Is a War on Advertising. Now What? | Digital – Advertising Age

Even in a data economy, it’s still all about people

I’ve spent this week at a Google SMB (small to medium business) partnership event in Miami, connecting
with the teams at Google that will help me build my business and learning about the ways in which Google is willing and able to help small businesses tackle the fireswamp that is digital advertising.  They do so indirectly, by supporting their channel sales partners with training, strategy, data analysis, marketing events, and a not-insignificant measure of scotch whiskey.

Amidst the torrential summer rains of Miami Beach in August Google has showcased what a large adwordsinvestment they’ve made in people – both their own and those working for their channel sales partners.  As we’ve spent these last few days ensconced in the beautiful (and historic, as guests are constantly reminded) Fontainebleau Hotel it struck me that even a company who has basically all the data in the world that there is to have, and arguably (or perhaps not) the most significant investment in algorithmic data manipulation, optimization and machine learning in the history of our brainy little species, even Google is still powered by people – by their relationships, their trust, their passions, their fears.  None of their data would be sought after if it weren’t organized in a way that makes sense to people – even though that often means organizing it in a way that is inefficient for the machines.  None of their revenue juggernaut of the past 20 years would have been possible had they not been able to convince advertisers – also people – that the best way to transmit their message to their customers – nearly all of which are people – was through Google’s data-driven means, and that meant a great deal of marketing, communicating, hand-shaking, and (most likely) cocktails, all of which are very people-centric practices.  Practices that are laced with data, no doubt – measuring success, analyzing costs, predicting outcomes – but which to execute still require a human with a Google badge to commence the shaking of those hands.

So for those worried that the machines are taking over, take heart knowing that even in the places most dominated by data-fueled artificial intelligence and algorithmic forecasting of even the tiniest of human behaviors, the whole study is still really an exercise in understanding people better and even – perhaps, especially – at Google the role of humans has never been more important.




Highlights from #EDCLV

Despite being exhausted after returning from EDC Las Vegas I stayed up all night to compile a video of some of the highlight moments of the show. It was just such an energizing and mesmerizing experience and that energy carried over into my determination to keep the experience alive a few hours longer by reliving it through the photos and video. Of course, the recorded version is nothing compared to the feeling of being there, but I hope it gives you a hint.

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