So You’ve Decided to Unfollow Me

We’re good, seriously.

A double exit-door, open to reveal a Matrix-style code waterfall. Over the door is a green exit sign with a green halo.
Sascha Kohlmann/CC BY SA 2.0 (modified)

It’s hard to overstate how liberating the early years of internet publishing were. After a century of publishing driven by the needs of an audience, we could finally switch to a model driven by the interests of writers.

That meant that instead of trying to figure out what some “demographic” wanted to read about, we wrote what we wanted to read, and then waited for people who share our interests to show up and read and comment and write their own blogs and newsletters and whatnot.

When the first ad networks came along, they leaned into this model: “Here is a writer whose audience has this approximate composition and interests; if that’s a group you’re trying to reach, then here’s a rate card to show those people ads.”

Back in those days, it seemed that ad targeting would enable more niches, more “long tail” publications tailoring to the esoteric, gnarly interests of writers and readers.

But that was wrong. As behavioral ad targeting took off, and with it, social networks and recommendation algorithms, the money shifted to follow readers around on the internet. Some readers were worth more than others. Showing an ad for a contingency liability lawyer to someone with a mesothelioma diagnosis was worth a bundle, for example, but you didn’t have to write about asbestos or lung cancer to score ad revenue from that user.
Continue reading "So You’ve Decided to Unfollow Me"

Pluralistic: 07 Apr 2020

Today's links

  1. Pickled 2001 computer store: Deadstock ahoy!
  2. A farewell to APIs: Greed, spam and entropy killed mashups.
  3. Machine learning model performs butthole recognition: Peak Internet of Shit.
  4. Covid loteria cards: Cabronavirus.
  5. California's fiber for all bill: Tell your senator to support SB1130.
  6. 1978 Doonesbury stereotype: Come for the Indochina political humor, stay for the printer's lore.
  7. LA crime plummets: Down 23% (domestic violence is down 11%).
  8. US stimulus is one week's cash: Deflation ahoy.
  9. Private equity blinks on cuts to health workers' wages: Speeding up slow destruction makes it impossible to ignore.
  10. Virtual greenscreen: Incredible computer science paper from the 2020 IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition.
  11. Landlord changes church's locks: The pastor of Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi, CA refused to stop holding services.
  12. This day in history: 2010, 2019
  13. Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing projects, current reading

Continue reading "Pluralistic: 07 Apr 2020"