The Online Advertising Seduction

Search-engine home pages are smart things that learn what we like to see and give us more of that. It’s kind of like treating yourself to a dessert, then having a chef appear every morning with a bigger and bigger tray of sweet delights.

Forrest Gump famously said that, “Life is lie a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. When it comes to online advertising, however, we do know. Click on a link and you will not only see that story, but a collection of others on the same topic.

Online advertising, search engine, algorithm

Choose Your Topic

Pick something with nougat and you get lots more nougat-filled candies. Choose cream filling instead and the internet chef will provide more cream-filled chocolates.

The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery, A Surprising Exploration Into the Nature of Consciousness, cephalopodNow, I like to see news about a lot of topics: volcanoes, sea-level rise, comets, asteroids, UFOs,/UAPs, hauntings, archeological digs, natural wonders, scientific discoveries, art, architecture, animals, etc. I probably see links to articles most people would never even think about.

Recently, I read “The Soul of an Octopus” for my book group and watched an online video of how a Giant Pacific Octopus moves. Now octopus stories are beginning to appear on my search engine.

Online Advertising Tabloids

I don’t click on all of these stories—don’t have the time. But I do check to see where the news is coming from to make sure it’s a reputable source. A lot comes from the internet equivalent of supermarket tabloids.

In the past few weeks, I have seen these headlines:

That’s quite an assortment. I won’t tell you which ones I read and which I passed over.

The Giant Time Suck

I’m sure you all see stories that I don’t—sports news, for example. Or NASCAR, fine wine, MMRPG gaming, golf, the Real Housewives of Anywhere, cigars, designer handbags, or the trials and tribulations of the ultra-wealthy. You get the picture.

Clock Spiral, Time Suck, wasted timeThe biggest problem, as we all know, is getting sucked into the black hole of reading story after story and never getting your work done. The images are so colorful; the headlines so enticing. Once must exert discipline to stay on track.

The advertisers count on that addiction, of course. Their flashing ads pop up and try to distract us. Companies measure how long we stay on a page and factor that in to their online ad rates. Then they show viewers more to keep us reading and thus being exposed to their advertisers.

The Time = Money Equation

Not everyone understands this time = money equation. I once talked to a woman who worked in a niche health-care market. She spent some time complaining about how her competitors’ messages popped up on her screen but hers did not appear anywhere.

Clearly, she thought that the competition’s online visibility had nothing to do with actual money. It just happened. I had to explain that these online messages were really advertising and the companies paid actual money to put them there.

Online Advertising, time suck, wasted time, algorithms, AI, contentThen she waved her hand and said, “Oh, but I’m sure you also see these messages on your computer.” Mistake #2. She thought we all see the same things on our computer screens.

I had to break the news that the ads popping up on her screen were carefully curated for her interests and that I saw entirely different things when I went online. Shock! She was, I’m sure, great at her heath-care niche but not so good at marketing for her company.

The AI Factor

I don’t know what’s going to happen when AI gets involved in online advertising—if it isn’t already. I’m not talking about algorithms, but actual content. Will the AI decide what appears and where? I suspect that we might get to that point. Especially if the aliens are creating the headlines