Journalism's surveillance capitalism problem: it's all in the ads

Those in glass houses…

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Om Malik on the New York Times:

However, the Times is hypocritical, to put it mildly. While it talks about a surveillance advertising technology ecosystem, the company itself is a willing participant — its web pages and apps are jam-packed with advertising and tracking scripts. It complains about Facebook ads in the news stream, and yet it blasts large ads in your face on its website and in the applications. The reading experience is deprecated by really big ads, which honestly has lead to the use of ad-blockers and a deep dislike for their product.

There's quite a serious disconnect between the barrage of (utterly deserved) criticism directed at Facebook and (to a lesser extend, oddly) Google by the big newspapers, and their utter complicity in the same sort of data harvesting they're criticizing the tech companies for. Another reason the shift towards various forms of reader revenue is a good thing: it's actually liberating for the industry.

The irony here, of course, is that we want to have our cake - and sell advertising on it, too:

And all of this was okay if advertising was their sole way to support themselves — but they charge for a subscription, and that should give me an option to opt out of advertising. It is not my fault that Times managers lack the guts to offer ad-free experience (at a higher price) and instead they go along with the charade of display and brand advertising, which at best is there to be blocked by an ad-blocker.
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.