Don Marti

Mon 09 Jul 2012 07:58:37 AM PDT

d3wd will u teach me how 2 signal?

Russell Coker posts about advertising and signaling: Targeted Advertising.

User-targeted advertising is counterproductive because it fails to send a signal (More details: part 1 part 2).

The DNS Changer mess is an extreme example of low-value advertising—you can think of it as targeted to users of specific malware—but the same principle applies to all advertising that's tied to the user instead of the content. It's worth less and less as the targeting gets better.

So if targeting to users reduces signal, how can we increase signal?

Well, first of all we could increase the production values of the advertising itself. Advertising that clearly requires expense and skill makes a great signal.

The second way to signal, which is to attach the advertising to a resource that's difficult to produce, is probably generally the most useful. Russell suggests "sponsoring people who produce free things." This is what TV advertisers do. The resource doesn't even have to be free of charge. Readers pay for magazines that have a majority of ad pages. Because print ads are difficult to target by user, they're great signal, and people will pay money to get them. (Try that with online ads.)

Finally, we can send a signal by putting the advertising in front of a large audience. Buy a static billboard, TV commercial, or other medium that isn't easily targeted to individual users, and you're sending an difficult to fake, costly signal.

Any more?