Don Marti

Sat 08 Nov 2014 06:24:33 AM PST

Audience snatching example

This is why we can't have nice things, service journalism edition.

Chris O'Hara writes: In the open market, a 30-year-old male car intender costs the same whether you find him on or Hotmail.

How does that work for the publisher? Someone builds a car site, does tests and reviews, pays people who can write (a lot of car writers are really good, and IT writers could learn from them). And then the ad network, as soon as it figures out who's a "car intender," follows him around the Internet to show him ads somewhere else.

Adtech is heroic? Seems like it's just the high-tech version of sneaking out of a restaurant before the bill comes.

Think of the online service journalism we could have if the whole advertising industry wasn't fixated on the idea of getting out of paying for it. The traditional print ad model was for the agency to take 15 percent. Today, intermediaries between the advertiser and publisher take 55-75%, and they justify it by being able to do audience snatching. Fix the audience snatching problem, and the web could have less desperate clickbait, and more trips to Lower Saxony for test drives. (The other effects of audience snatching are signal loss, fraud, and support for illegal sites, but this is already too long.)

Publishers get sucked into the tracking game, but there are ways out. Site management can't really help, because they have to work within the existing system, even pretend to be concerned about dark traffic. Individual writers, though? If you can make your loyal readers harder to track online, you win.