'Do Not Track' controversy could limit news sites' dependence on targeted ads

Monday Note | John Battelle's Searchblog

Frédéric Filloux says users are becoming so irritated with the flood of targeted ads that they're deliberately not clicking on them:

The more experienced users become, the more cautious they get in order to avoid aggressive tracking. For advertisers, this is the exact opposite of what they meant to achieve. And I take the trend will accelerate. Marketers have more sense of efficiency than of measure; they were quick to embrace these clever technologies without considering they might end up killing the golden goose. It is happening much earlier than anyone has anticipated.

Microsoft expected its upcoming IE 10 browser to turn on "Do Not Track" by default. If that browser were to grab 25 percent of the market, a sizable portion of Web users would be off-limits to marketers.

"Were a majority of consumers to implement DNT [Do Not Track], the infrastructure that currently drives wide swathes of the web’s monetization ecosystem would crumble, taking a lot of quality content along with it," writes John Battelle.

Microsoft was rebuffed by an industry group hashing out standards for "Do Not Track," which said that this function can't be turned on by default, so for now, that "monetization ecosystem" is not in danger of crumbling.

But Battelle says sites that rely on targeted ads (particularly third-party ad networks) should use this as a reason to explain why they're so important to their businesses.

Imagine a scenario, beginning sometime next year, when website owners start noticing significant numbers of visitors with IE10 browsers swinging by their sites. Imagine further that Microsoft has stuck to its guns, an all those IE10 browsers have their flags set to “DNT.”

To me, this presents a huge opportunity for the owner of a site to engage with its readers, and explain quite clearly the fact that good content on the Internet is paid for by good marketing on the Internet. And good marketing often needs to use “tracking” data so as to present quality advertising in context. (The same really can and should be said of content on the web – but I’ll just stick to advertising for now). ...

He envisions websites using something like this to greet users who have turned off tracking:

John Battelle says the debate over "Do Not Track" could spur websites to explain how targeted ads are crucial to their business model

Related: Successful Facebook ads aren't that different from traditional TV, magazine ads (Fast Company) | The concept of 'Do Not Track' is simple; the implementation, not so much (Digital Trends)

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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