Rebalancing the Scales of Advertising

How I came to know our data is worth billions

It all began with a pair of shoes. I didn’t even like. One misplaced click sent me down the ugly shoe rabbit hole. Over the weeks that followed, the shoes popped up everywhere online. From my Facebook feed to the articles I was reading, there were the shoes…following me. Sound familiar?

Most realize that we are being tracked online. There are companies tracking our browsing habits and selling that information to advertisers for billions. The advertisers then use that data to target their ads, saving them billions.

What is not as intuitive is how we became the most valuable product being bought and sold online and how much money is at stake.

In order to see how we got here, we must go back to a simpler pre-internet time, back to the 80’s. In 1985, there was a simple straightforward deal between media and consumers. You exchanged your attention for content in the network TV model. This is what that model looked like.

Network TV model

Fast forward to the digital age where we still exchange our attention for content. Most of the things we enjoy for “free” online are paid for via the advertising we see alongside it. What isn’t so obvious is, as we are navigating online, data tracking and collection companies are gathering our data and selling it. This creates enormous value for themselves, at our expense, and often, without our informed consent. The addition of data to the scales tips them like this. Our attention plus our data is NOW worth more than the value of the content we get for “free”.

Our attention plus our data is worth more than the value of the content we get for free.

Enter ad blocking.

Ad blockers are more accurately called content blockers. In addition to blocking ads, they block data companies from tracking your behavior and selling it. Given the enormous dollars at stake it should come as no surprise that the largest ad blockers are now being paid hundreds of millions of dollars by companies like Google, Facebook, Taboola and others to allow their ads to get through. These companies are run by smart people. They wouldn’t be paying millions unless they were getting far more value in return. Google makes about 80 billion dollars in advertising revenue. That is enough money to make Dr. Evil blush.

So who is getting all that money paid to ad blockers?

The ad blockers are keeping it… jerks.

Here is the thing though, without the consumers all of that revenue goes away. Consumers are the literal life blood of advertising. We simultaneously provide the data and the attention and yet we are the only ones cut out of this incredibly lucrative ecosystem.

It is time for consumers to come together and demand their fair portion of this ecosystem.

The balance should look like this and the money should go to the consumers.

Payment to consumers would rebalance the scales

Who is with me?

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