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The Root of the Internet’s Disrepute: Online Advertising!

The Root of the Internet’s Disrepute: Online Advertising!

Ralph Nader

In all the mounting media coverage of problems with the Internet, such as invasion of privacy, vulnerability to hacking, political manipulation, and user addiction, there is one constant: online advertising. Online advertising is the lifeblood of Google, Facebook, and many other Internet enterprises that profit by providing personal data to various vendors. Moreover, the move of tens of billions of dollars from conventional print and broadcast media continues, with devastating impacts, especially on print newspapers and magazines.


Josef Goebbels would be proud to see how corporate power dogs have refined the work he pioneered.


And don’t forget Edward Bernays.

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Apparently, Ralph isn’t familiar with content marketing.

Another problem is that people are willing to give up so much personal data to these companies in return for freebies, It all starts with giving stuff away for free. No subscriptions,etc. A business model based on charging people for using services would go a long way toward solving the problem.


I am not certain that I understand it correctly, but it seems to me that part of the problem is that while the internet providers are charging us to download the data from various web sites, they at the same time are charging the content providers to upload the data that gets downloaded to us, thus obligating the content providers to find ways to finance distributing their content on the net, especially when their websites get accessed frequently enough that uploading the data becomes a significant cost.

Ideally the internet providers should not be both charging the content providers for uploading the data and then charging us for downloading that same data. Further, the content of that data must not be the concern of the “pipes”. In other words, the internet providers should be “no more than the pipes that transfer data to us”. For this to happen we must pay all the cost of downloading the data from the web sites, while the web sites do not pay for uploading the data and pay only for the creation of the data and the maintenance of their web sites. I emphasize, the “pipes” should not be operating in a fashion that encourages or coerces the content providers to add advertising to pay for the uploading of their data. Removing the costs to content providers when uploading the data will considerably reduce the ubiquity of online advertising on the internet.

(Note that adding advertising to pay for the production of the content is an entirely different matter).

(Note also that removing the costs of uploading data will cause a problem in that the content providers would lose the incentive to upload lower resolution video files, thus increasing the likelihood of traffic jams on the internet. Most video content does not require 4K files, and for most purposes even 720p files are not that necessary.)

I agree with you that we often give away far too much to these companies in return for “beads and trinkets”. On the other hand the bigger of these companies, with their fine print and close to monopoly control of parts of the net, often give us a “take it as it is offered or leave it” choice if we want access to what they offer.

Nader as usual gets most of this right. A larger issue is how marketers and advertisers subvert literally everything within capitalist systems, not just the Internet.

Every media outlet in a capitalist system is, first and foremost, an advertising delivery device. Clear Channel was the first to openly acknowledge that fact during their ascendance as a radio monopolizer a couple of decades ago, when asked why they were so driven to own every station they could buy. It was about being able to set extortionate ad rates by virtue of mass market control.

Never did they discuss the content of radio—merely the medium.

There is no one in the information business in it for anything other than profit by way of sales. The “news” or “entertainment” is merely the vehicle used to persuade us to spend.


I was under the understanding that Clear Channel had the purpose of being a media monopolizing propaganda source. I suppose that right-wing propaganda could be a very important purpose that is secondary to making profit, and conveniently (for its owners) the propaganda messages have so far not been in conflict with the task of maximizing profits.

Online advertising has never resulted in a single purchase from me ever.
Tailored advertising to reach my demographic? Only in their wet dreams.
Advertisers are only wasting their money.

I also think that it would help if the internet was maintained/operated, or however you want to say it, as a municipal utility sort of like a public library.


Most CC channels had nothing to do with talk radio. And right wing radio is profitable, hence their interest in it. That trend existed well before Clear Channel is. Leftists and liberals were generally not into shock radio, so there’s never been much of a market for it (ask Air America).

Their profits were tied to their ability to set market rates for ad space across entire media sectors for years.


Once again, Ralph gets worked up about a “problem” that doesn’t exist. In his own article, he notes:

Unfortunately for advertisers, consumers are not intentionally clicking on online ads in big numbers

So, just like on television, or radio, or newspapers, or any other form of media, people pay to advertise, thereby subsidizing those using the service. The advertising may, or may not work. This is just the latest iteration of “oh those evil advertisers” that goes back to when Geritol sponsored Lawrence Welk and The Original Amateur Hour, because TV was pitching to the lowest common denominator.

Wouldn’t it be so much smarter of advertisers to realize that they are wasting their money…
But hey, why don’t they pay me to post ads up somewhere where people will ignore them?
I’ll be happy to take their money since they want to waste it.

Put up a blog. If you get traffic, you’ll get advertisers. I’ve got several friends who make spending money that way! If I didn’t have a “normal” job, I’d consider it too!

Much like the attempts of many cities to provide reliable low-cost internet services before most of the State governments passed laws to make this illegal?

Really? It seems to me that access to websites is slowed down considerably while we wait for the page to connect to various sites to determine what advertising gets sent to us and what information about us gets stored, and the practice of making us look at the advertising before the website is becoming more frequent. More and more we are subjected to sudden unwanted audio from advertisements. How bad will it need to get before we have a problem?

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I find using an ad-blocker works admirably. No ads, and no subscription costs.

I have two (free) ad blockers and neither works very well. I may end up paying for one. Anybody know of a good one?

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Conservatives like shock radio because it gives them lots of scary things to blame their miseries on.