Posts Tagged ‘advertisements

02
Feb
13

Advertising and Journalism

It’s common to be concerned with the media these days. It seems to many that it’s just not informative, or not concerned with the truth. Or perhaps we just don’t trust it or rely on it and us not trusting the media has made it impossible for it to investigate serious stories. 

Whatever the problem is, people have noticed that media has become much more like entertainment. This is something that I think is a very real and very prevalent fact about media. “News” content has become more designed to excite and amuse. Just go to buzzfeed.com if you don’t believe me, though of course it’s a little disingenuous for me to pretend that buzzfeed is a news source. 

I wonder what the connection between making news entertaining and journalistic ethics. I have not had enough time to read about this, so I’m in the dark, but here are my intuitions. On the one hand, I have this intuition that journalism is less and less a profession with conventions and standards of conduct and excellent. In one way, this might be good, since citizens can now participate in generating information for others without a potentially uninviting expertism serving as a barrier. On the other hand, should be worried that hoaxes like Manti Te’o (sp?) are becoming more and more common because the journalistic standards of “publications of repute” are degrading? 

The other intuition I have though is that it’s naive to think that journalists ever really obeyed a code of conduct that was particularly public spirited. Yellow journalism is my example of this. Also, newspapers in old presidential races used to, I believe, just make things up completely. 

But something is bugging me about the modern media environment, and I happened on this article today, which didn’t ease my anxiety. I found this article on the Atlantic.com’s site where it was flagged as affiliate (i.e., advertiser content) but it was still included in a section called “around the web” and this isn’t like buzzfeed’s strategy of making advertisements fit right in with normal content. But that’s the problem. What is “normal” content? If there are people out there who are just writing promotional pieces for corporations and newspapers are putting those articles in sections that are only half-concealed areas for “articles” that are in fact advertisements with paragraph stops, then it seems that the power of media will again be undermined because our trust in media will again be undermined. 

If consumers of information have a harder and harder time telling what is real, it seems that they will have to fight harder to learn things and will be easier targets for those organizations which can make their chosen message easy to stumble upon. 

I have the feeling that I’m not being very clear, and perhaps I’m being alarmist about nothing. Maybe the new media environment will make it more and more possible for an “honest” media company to flourish. One that, you know, at least checks to see if the people that it writes stories about are even real. 

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01
Feb
12

It’s striking how little $ Facebook makes

Everyone thinks Facebook will grow, and I’m not a skeptic. How could I be — I don’t know anything about investing.

However, Facebook doesn’t make that much in profit compared to a whole host of other corporations. Home Depot makes 3x more than it. Also in pg. 12 of the IPO, facebook warns about the source of its revenue, and how unstable it might be. It’s just kind of funny to hear Facebook say this itself and acknowledges it.

We generate a substantial majority of our revenue from advertising. The loss of advertisers, or reduction in spending by advertisers with Facebook, could seriously harm our business.

The substantial majority of our revenue is currently generated from third parties advertising on Facebook. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, advertising accounted for 98%, 95%, and 85%, respectively, of our revenue. As is common in the industry, our advertisers typically do not have long-term advertising commitments with us. Many of our advertisers spend only a relatively small portion of their overall advertising budget with us. In addition, advertisers may view some of our products, such as sponsored stories and ads with social context, as experimental and unproven. Advertisers will not continue to do business with us, or they will reduce the prices they are willing to pay to advertise with us, if we do not deliver ads and other commercial content in an effective manner, or if they do not believe that their investment in advertising with us will generate a competitive return relative to other alternatives. Our advertising revenue could be adversely affected by a number of other factors, including: 

 

decreases in user engagement, including time spent on Facebook;

 

increased user access to and engagement with Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently directly generate meaningful revenue, particularly to the extent that mobile engagement is substituted for engagement with Facebook on personal computers where we monetize usage by displaying ads and other commercial content; 

 

product changes or inventory management decisions we may make that reduce the size, frequency, or relative prominence of ads and other commercial content displayed on Facebook;

 

our inability to improve our analytics and measurement solutions that demonstrate the value of our ads and other commercial content;

 

decisions by advertisers to use our free products, such as Facebook Pages, instead of advertising on Facebook;

 

loss of advertising market share to our competitors; 

 

adverse legal developments relating to advertising, including legislative and regulatory developments and developments in litigation;

 

adverse media reports or other negative publicity involving us, our Platform developers, or other companies in our industry;

 

our inability to create new products that sustain or increase the value of our ads and other commercial content 

 

the degree to which users opt out of social ads or otherwise limit the potential audience of commercial content;

 

changes in the way online advertising is priced;

 

decreases in user engagement, including time spent on Facebook;

 

increased user access to and engagement with Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently directly generate meaningful revenue, particularly to the extent that mobile engagement is substituted for engagement with Facebook on personal computers where we monetize usage by displaying ads and other commercial content;

 

product changes or inventory management decisions we may make that reduce the size, frequency, or relative prominence of ads and other commercial content displayed on Facebook;

 

our inability to improve our analytics and measurement solutions that demonstrate the value of our ads and other commercial content;

 

decisions by advertisers to use our free products, such as Facebook Pages, instead of advertising on Facebook;

 

loss of advertising market share to our competitors;

 

adverse legal developments relating to advertising, including legislative and regulatory developments and developments in litigation;

 

adverse media reports or other negative publicity involving us, our Platform developers, or other companies in our industry;

 

our inability to create new products that sustain or increase the value of our ads and other commercial content; 

 

the degree to which users opt out of social ads or otherwise limit the potential audience of commercial content;

 

changes in the way online advertising is priced;

24
Feb
11

Don’t Bring Me Down

I was looking for a song to encapsulate this post, and it wasn’t easy, perhaps because my tastes are pretty mainstream and so I don’t get a lot of gothic, death metal, or slit-your-wrist type stuff (no judgments).

Anyway, I think Don’t Bring Me Down by electric light orchestra comes pretty close to getting the flavor of this post, but its weird how most songs about the negative side of everyday life are usually about broken hearts. Another appropriate song might be the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony (more the music video than anything, but the lyrics a little bit).

“But what is the subject of this post, and why do these songs match it?” you ask.  Well, in this post I want to ask a question, which is “is everyday life insulting?” In a way, this question is kind of boring, because it could be easily run together with: is every day life lonely? Is it depressing? Is it boring? But maybe there is way to give a unique content to this question that will then make its answer a little more exciting as well. I’ve talked about insults before on this blog, and so I’ve made some tentative theoretical incursions into what an insult is, and how it works. (See here)

So first, what do I mean when I say that everyday life is insulting, well I mean many things, and I’ll give some examples. I have three that I’ve collected, but there are millions.

1. The other day I was in an airplane in which there were three types of seats: first class, middle class (extra leg room) and coach. There weren’t many people on the flight and the stewardess gets on the audio system and asks the passengers who wanted to buy an upgrade for more legroom. The problem was that everyone had a lot of legroom because people could basically spread out over an entire row. Also, once the flight got started, there would be no reason to prevent people from going to the roomier seats up front. I mean, its fine if the airline wants to try to force people to pay for more room when the flight is packed, but now that we find ourselves on the flight and there’s no people, it seems silly to try and get people to pay for something that they don’t need and can get for free. This is a theme in this post, not best exemplified here, but you get the point, which is that people try to get you to do things that you know make no sense and that you don’t want to do. The other examples are better.

2. Advertising. You see a Coke commercial (I saw one the other day) that was trying to suggest that the viewer get one’s friends (or family, this was a very family-centric commercial) and just drink coke together because that was somehow wholesome. Again, this takes the form of suggestion, which in most situations is completely unobjectionable: you tell a friend visiting some city “hey, check out this bar” but of course commercials are missing this type of sincerity. It’s not exactly that they are lying (though this coke commercial got close because I remember having it make some reference to health, which obviously has nothing to do with their product), but more that its just so patronizing. And I’m not even against coke. Something tasting good is a reason to drink it, but as with almost every commercial, there is an attempt to make a suggestion that is obviously a disingenuous and patronizing attempt at thought control. In this same vein, and maybe this is the best case, are infomercials or just ordinary companies that try to sell you something that will plainly result in a loss in your welfare. So, self-help books, marriage insurance, or airplane ticket insurance, or maintenance insurance for hedge shears (offered to me at home depot). These types of insurance are a terrible deal for the consumer and often prey on the worst types of emotional impulses. As I’ve noted on this blog many times, capitalism works really well when people are self-possessed and confident — and I’ll say it — AUTONOMOUS agents pursuing their own flourishing. But we know that this assumptions breaks down in a real hurry and you find hucksters selling all sorts of SHIT that results in a loss to everyone (to society, and to the person buying it — I guess the person selling this shit still wins).

Why is this stuff insulting? Well because, at least I feel anyway, that it mocks our attempts to be autonomous and laughs in the face of our attempts to order our lives for good. These sorts of things pierce right through our ongoing struggle to build ourselves and seem to see if we’ll slip up this one time. “Do you want this piece of garbage” they seem to be saying, and the relentless proliferation of sources for this question (TV, magazine, internet, facebook, billboards, etc. etc.) is a type of mass insult perpetrated on a daily basis.

3. On facebook, I get all these friend requests lately from extremely attractive girls who have interests like “cheerleading” and “having fun” and other ridiculous shit, which I guess some (anyone?) gullible guys are really happy to have met someone so paradigmatically feminine. The thought of these thoughts on the part of complete strangers makes me want to take a nap out of pure depression. But put that aside. Here again, there is a wider source of incentives that organizes people to make passes at me to see when I’ll break down or act weakly or give in to despair. Am I happy that I’m “single” on facebook? Well not really, because it happens to correspond to the fact that I am actually single in real life. But these hordes of charlatans and who-knows-what (how would you even describe really attractive people who algorithmically friend less attractive people on a virtual gathering place of profiles, and interests?) strike at the very heart of what I like about myself and what I like about all people — which is the dignity that comes from trying to live life each day as best as possible. A cliche to be sure, but that little source of common dignity means a lot to me and these advertisements and faux-facebook-friendings strike right at the core, just like “fag” strikes right at the core of something that a gay person may value about him or herself (even if society doesn’t agree with that judgment).

What this leads into a more abstract lesson about society, which is that politeness still has a very powerful role to play in our lives (see this post that I’ve received some compliments on). Some people think that politeness is just a system of barely disguised hierarchically mandated reactions that grew out of 19th century victorian culture, but we shouldn’t be confused because some of the origins of politeness, as in “polite society” where just ways to exclude people.

Instead, I think we should understand that politeness is simply a way of launching a thousand soothing counteractions to the thousand barbed insults that our society hurls in our direction about our consumption, our clothes, our decisions, and our identity.

One thing my dad is really proud of is that for something like 25 years, he has greeted the security guard in his building with a smile and a hello. He sounds so happy when he explains this habit to me and he usually goes on to explain how all of the guards appreciate it and that one of the long time veterans and he share talk about basketball and other little chit chat. To me, this is really good, and the goodness of it is also present when someone says “excuse me,” or opens the door for someone, or just smiles at a pedestrian walking the other direction.

But there is further room for thought here, because if I’m right that everyday life is frequently “insulting” then why would politeness be the counter? The opposite of politeness is rudeness, not insulting-ness. Maybe rudeness should be assimilated to a type of insult? Not sure, but that wouldn’t be the worst result.

 

23
May
10

Where did all the bullies go?

One thing I’m fascinated by is the presence of evil in society. I don’t mean to be melodramatic about this. Evil is just my catch all term for badness that is generated intentionally (or even unintentionally) by humans.

What interests me is the way that bad behavior gets changed in the course of a lifetime, how it spills into every nook and cranny of daily routine, and often how it takes a hidden, but nonetheless costly toll on human development.

This is not Foucault’s point about power becoming exercised on such minute levels, because his is a thesis about freedom, which tries to give the idea of values and rationality. I on the other hand subscribe to both, and so am trying to develop a thesis about right conduct.

Anyway I’ll cut to the chase. When we’re young, there are bullies — completely unreasonable people that confront our developing minds with an interesting phenomenon: that there is evil for evil’s sake (even if the evil they intend is not meant to be enormous, it may just  be a hurt feeling, a scratched arm, etc.) There are people who really do desire to hurt other people, and are often quite good at doing so. But then this leads to my title question, where do all the bullies go?

Something happens as we grow older. In one way, the bullies are still there, abusive unreasonable people are everywhere. But in another way, they disappear, because such people are no longer thought to be judgeable in terms that we used to describe jungle-gym tyrants and dodgeball duces. They are just “hard to work with” or “unpleasant” and even these people seem to get fewer and fewer. Most people are neutral, they’ll help you out if things look grim, but otherwise, they’ll walk by.

I think though, that just as mass society takes power and spread it out amongst people, it spread mean-spiritedness and cruelty out as well and makes everyone into a little bit of a bully. Often this role is played by “the man” in popular imagination: landlords, company executives, police, politicians, parents. But again, I’m not talking about power, but  about civility, politeness, respect, and tolerance which effect all relationships.  In these, two often, the becomes an element of cruelty of difficulty, and it’s so subtle that I confess, it’s not easy for me to draw out what I have in mind. Things like bragging at a party to someone you know just got laid off, or ignoring someone you find boring at a party, only to see him/her floundering in the corner for lack of a conversation partner. Not saying thank you to someone who holds the door for you,  staring at strangers, and sarcasm. Now, you say, these are little things and don’t deserve much attention. It’s much better, you continue, for us to worry about doing the big things that matter such as paying taxes, not hurting others, and rescuing people in extreme need of help. But this is my point, or rather, my question, what is the toll that such small acts of disrespect? What sorts of inferiority to they promulgate and how do these feelings get replayed in grander and more obvious forms of evil? Now, this is a purely psychological question, but one which may take on a moral dimension as the more flashy types of wrongdoing are slowly ground into finer and finer powder, so that pain and suffering grinds down individuals by small insults and snubs.

Here’s an example: advertising. On one hand, there’s nothing wrong with it. Advertising lets us know about products we want and also acts to fund things we want to do by imposing a cost that many seem willing to bear. But advertisements are insulting at some level too. They try to weedle and cajole, infantilize and deceive, and by now, in such predictable ways.

In short, there’s a whole micro-world out there of abuse, and it may become the largest barrier to making large improvements in our world.

07
Apr
10

Interactive commercials

I was watching hulu the other day and before the show started, there was  a car commercial which had three options (three different Fords if I remember correctly), and I had to pick one. If I didn’t pick, the commercial would continue for another 15 seconds and then select one automatically.

I don’t know who came up with this, but it’s brilliant in two respects.

First, the commercial allows the company doing the advertising to trade time for attention. Usually, no one pays much attention to a commercial, but the prospect of waiting an additional 15 seconds for my show just made me click one of the cars. I could of course picked arbitrarily, but, being forced to pick made me at least briefly consider which car I should select.

Second, and this may not be a reality yet, but market research can get done by recording how many people click on different options. Essentially, this is another way of getting input on products.

Will these innovations raise or lower the cost of advertising? Hard to say because there are competing effects. Interactive advertising is more valuable than regular advertising so it might be more expensive, but if users click through the advertisements, then the supply of ad time might increase. So from the demand side we should expect a price increase, but looking at the supply side, we should expect a price decrease.

20
Jan
10

are television shows better than they used to be?

On this episode of blogging heads, the claim is made that the past decade had the greatest TV, and Matt Yglesias argues that this is due to the growth of DVD sales and DVR equipment. The relative ease with which people can record their favorite shows, according to this theory, allows writers and execs to pursue more  story driven formats. The example offered is The Wire.

It’s hard to get good data on this theory, but even crude measure cast doubt on this claim. First, DVR penetration was roughly 10% in 2005, and the wire began in 2002, and never really attained an extremely high viewership at any point in its run. So, at the very least it doesn’t seem like DVR proliferation allowed TV execs to experiment with a different show format; it seems HBO was just doing what it always does, using its pay base to create good TV. Rather than technology, it seems that the artistic vision of the writer, David Simon, played a large part in  making The Wire so great.

(source)

Also, it’s not clear that the use of DVRs necessarily means people will watch episodes they would have otherwise missed, some people just use DVR’s as a convenience to watch the show later in the night or without the commercials.

Finally, a more general point, which is that the rise of DVRs will likely mean worse TV in the future. True, people can watch complicated shows, but there will be no incentive to write such shows, because advertisement space for primetime (or whenever) will be worth much less. Of course, HBO will be immune to these sorts of cost pressures, but again, HBO was always immune to these cost pressures; their model was around before and  it will  likely stay around.

24
Aug
09

media wars

Here is a nice article about the impoverished state of our media, drawing on some contemporary happenings.

This article talks about Glenn Beck’s accusation that Obama is a “racist,” and how many sponsors are asking that their ads not be run during Beck’s show. Of course, the ads have just been moved around and so neither sponsors nor fox news loses any money (maybe a little because Beck commands a large audience and so moving the ads around takes away some eyeballs from these ads).

But the larger theme of this article is that the media cannot fulfill its one valuable role: providing information. In this post, I gave a chart showing how prevalent belief in death panels, was, and the article above adds a layer of nuance to the problem:

While there is legitimate debate about the legislation’s funding for voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions, the former Alaska governor’s claim that government panels would make euthanasia decisions was clearly debunked. Yet an NBC poll last week found that 45 percent of those surveyed believe the measure would allow the government to make decisions about cutting off care to the elderly — a figure that rose to 75 percent among Fox News viewers.

Less than seven hours after Palin posted her charge Aug. 7, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann called it an “absurd idea.” That might have been dismissed as a liberal slam, but the next day, ABC’s Bill Weir said on “Good Morning America”: “There is nothing like that anywhere in the pending legislation.”

On Aug. 9, Post reporter Ceci Connolly said flatly in an A-section story: “There are no such ‘death panels’ mentioned in any of the House bills.” That same day, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks called Palin’s assertion “crazy.” CNN’s Jessica Yellin said on “State of the Union,” “That’s not an accurate assessment of what this panel is.” And on ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos said: “Those phrases appear nowhere in the bill.”

Still, some conservatives argued otherwise. On the Stephanopoulos roundtable, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said the legislation “has all sorts of panels. You’re asking us to trust turning power over to the government when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.”

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And on Fox the next night, Bill O’Reilly played a clip of former Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean saying Palin “just made that up. . . . There’s nothing like euthanasia in the bill.” O’Reilly countered that as far as he could tell, “Sarah Palin never mentioned euthanasia. Dean made it up to demean Palin.”

What I find most interesting is that Olbermann was the first to denounce Palin’s death panel claim. I think this probably contributed to the strength of the death panel buzz. Olbermann is factually right in lambasting Palin’s claim, but since he is no different than O’Reilly or any of the other incendiary right wing news show hosts, his criticism lacks credibility.

Here’s the moral of the story. When absurd partisan claims are made, partisans from the other side are often the most interested in refuting them, but since they lack objective credibility as well, their refutations do nothing other than convince people that there was something to the original claim. In most situations, the fact that Olbermann is yelling about a claim made by a republican is probably strong evidence that the republican is on to something.

My point is that when a party plays the game of media charlatanism, then its no surprise that it will have trouble dispelling actual falsehoods.




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