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Some thoughts on online ads…

April 13, 2011

I just read the PCWorld article, “Privacy Backlash Over Ad Tracking Debated” by Patrick Miller and Tom Spring. It got me thinking.

For one thing, why do ads need to be targeted? What’s wrong with context-based ads? If I’m on a tech blog, for instance, I want to see ads for tech products and services–insofar as I want to see ads at all, that is. I’ve seen targeted ads that were completely irrelevant to the content I was reading; I don’t visit webcomics sites to buy domain names, for instance.

I also wonder why the pay-per-click model is so prevalent. After all, people pay good money for print and television ads, which (usually) can’t be clicked. This is because simply seeing an ad–even a bad one–creates a degree of brand recognition that sticks around long after the memories of the ad itself have faded. There was a study to this effect done in the 80’s, but I can’t remember offhand which journal it was in. So why do some ad programs only pay for clicks? My guess is that it’s so advertisers can get something for nothing.

Come to think of it, I am actually quite surprised that anyone would click on an ad. For me, clicking a banner ad or even a sponsored search result seems like almost as bad an idea as clicking a link in a spam e-mail. That’s probably just me being paranoid, though.

Oh, well. Advertisements are part of online life, so it won’t do me any good to complain about them. I certainly would rather have them than part with freemium services. But I do hold out some hope that the debate over online ads, and targeted ads in particular, leads to better ads and a better online experience.

We’ll see.

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