Tuesday, November 1, 2016

And Now... A Word From Our Sponsors

Tim Hurst

Sponsored content can be tricky. In a world where banner ads are all but irrelevant, the fiscal dilemma arises. How are publications to make money? Should they go "New York Times style" and have a certain number of free articles a month before they start charging? Should they give their paying subscribers bonus content not available to the general populace? The truth is, there is no easy solution.


Is using Adblock ethical as a journalist? I've gone back and forth on this topic countless times. The argument against Adblock is simply, as the page states, "free content isn't really free." Most sites use harmless ads to generate revenue so they can keep their content technically free to users. Many users are annoyed by the ads, so they add a quick plugin to their browser, which is also free to them. What they either don't realize or don't care about, however, is how it affects the content provider.

More users have Adblock installed than not, and it's killing publications. Some, like Forbes, have made it impossible to view their content with Adblock running on your system unless you disable it or, at least, whitelist their site. That seems reasonable, no?

Articles or Advertisements?

Some publications are guilty of disguising paid advertisements as legitimate journalistic articles. This is called native advertising. Sites like BuzzFeed are known for doing this, and it's rubbing a lot of people the wrong way and giving journalists a bad name as a whole.

Luckily, this practice bothers John Oliver a lot. You'll never find content like that with him. Never. You can watch his content here. He's great. All joking aside, the link takes you to a parody of native advertisement.

To Ad or not to Ad?

There seems to be a happy medium, but it is hard to find that line. Some sites are so completely overtaken with ads that they make viewing the content a challenge. Because of the sheer number of ads, they'll make a little more profit per viewer, but lose viewers in the process. The reverse is true as well. Finding a nice balance is definitely key, whilst trying to avoid consumers feeling the need for pesky Adblock.

Targeting Ads

In the day and age in which we live, Google knows a lot about us as individuals. Using cookies, Google is able to track the sites we go and the things we click on to build a profile about us. That profile helps Google target us with certain advertisements rather than others. For example, Demon Hunter was my favorite band in high school. When their 2010 album was coming out, nearly every site I went to on my parents' desktop computer had an ad for their new album. My dad mentioned it to me and I was astonished. That was my first real memorable encounter with targeted advertisements.


The question is, though, is this ethical? Did I agree to allow Google to track my every movement and know all this personal information about me? Ethical or not, I believe this is the way of the future. Soon, social media and Internet advertising are going to be revolutionized. Each person will have a comprehensive digital profile, and marketing is going to use that to target us each individually.

That's only my own prediction, at least. What do you think? Is the use of targeting ads morally okay? Is this where the Internet is headed? I'd like to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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