Some Eyeballs Are More Equal Than Others

January 21, 2013 6:43 am

In many ways, this is stating the obvious: from an advertiser’s standpoint, some eyeballs are definitely more valuable than others, even within the same demographics (in fact, the same eyeballs would have different values at different times and at different places – Read The Multiple Me’s On The Internet)

We thought of a few things about how this fact could manifest itself, on the Internet in general and advertising in particular. Our argument is based on one fact: details on which specific eyeballs are looking at your content are easier to come by these days:

1. Indirect Signals: First, there are indirect signals: for instance, if the eyeballs are from an iPhone for example, we can then match that up with the iPhone demographics in the location, and we can make educated guesses on a lot of paramters about the eyeballs, including age, annual income etc. This can be done with no additional tracking effort – we just need to know the mode of access. To really grasp what has changed, picture this: in 1999, we could not infer much about the eyeballs based on the device or browser.

2. Direct Signals: While there is a heavy opt-in element involved in this these days, the fact of the matter is that these options are (intentionally) hidden bwhind so many layers, that the users end up sharing a lot of information about themselves in a very direct manner. Examples include sharing of email addresses, sharing information across platform with user’s consent, etc. Purchasing behavior is a huge direct signal as well – for instance, if Zynga knows that you bought Farmcash by paying real dollars at BestBuy, that provides quite a few clues about your spending patterns / inclinations.

What does this mean for advertisers? In the land of “just get them to click on the ad” this means much more than what we can imagine. We had mentioned this before – Ads following people on the Internet is just a start. Location specific ads are pointers to a very scary future, and an advertiser equipped with the right tools that can drill down on more details about the specific set of eyeballs watching any given content – enabled by technology to relate your behavior across devices and platforms, in real time, opens up a scary set of ‘opportunities’.

How would you feel if the guy in the store called you by name, and asked you if you would like to buy your five year old, a pair of shoes that would match the dress you bought for her last week when you were vacationing in Paris?

But here is why this is a disturbing trend – this new world takes away the democratization promise of the Internet. Did you hear about those travel websites showing higher prices if you visited their websites from a Mac rather than a Windows PC? That is indicative of some serious changes happening on the way commerce works on the Internet. We are moving the same inequalities that exist in the offline world, and moving them online, since it is now possible to kind of know who exactly we are talking to on the Internet, more precisely than ever before.

All eyeballs are equal. Some eyeballs are more equal than others.

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