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Ken Magill

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Who Really Stands to Lose in the Do-Not-Track Debate

6/12/12

By Ken Magill

Turns out do-not-track proponents are actually corporate tools.

Why? Well, think about it. The great thing about behaviorally targeted ad networks is that they allow advertisers to reach high-value prospects without having to buy premium inventory.

So rather than buy top-dollar space on NYTimes.com, an advertiser can pay a much lower CPM and reach the same people on a network of far more obscure sites.

As a result, businesses with comparatively minuscule marketing budgets can leverage the advertising power that previously was available only to big-budget marketers.

Likewise, by being part of a behaviorally targeted network, a small publisher can monetize a site that otherwise could only exist as a labor of love.

So it should be no surprise that big publishers hate behaviorally targeted networks. They would like nothing more than to see behaviorally targeted ads crushed out of existence. Because then they could charge inflated rates for premium inventory.

So the question we must ask ourselves as the do-not-track debate plays out is what kind of Internet do we want to have?

Do we want a relatively small number of big publishers controlling monetized content? Or do we want the big guys to struggle with falling rates while thousands upon thousands of littler voices get paid to contribute their talents, as well.

The former is a model with which we’re all comfortable. It’s called broadcast television. Is that what we want the Internet to look like?

The IAB has a sub-membership called the Long-Tail Alliance of more than 500 publishers with fewer than 10 employees and revenue of less than $1 million a year. According to the IAB, they get most of their revenue from ad networks.

Want a visual representation of what’s at stake in the do-not-track debate? Well, all these publishers are under threat.

While do-not-track proponents claim to be pro-consumer, they are anything but.

The whole debate is over the ability to serve someone a relevant ad, for Pete’s sake.

Is crushing the ability of small publishers to get paid for their work and limiting online content choices pro-consumer?

Or how about pricing smaller businesses out of the online display ad market? Is that pro-consumer?

My guess is do-not-track proponents think they’re all about protecting the little guy. In this case, they’re clearly not.

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