Stan Rhodes: Advertising is waste

Republished from Stan Rhodes:

You’d think that everyone that’s ever seen an advertisement would know this, but no one seems to want to say it. We’re all thinking it, aren’t we?

Advertising, at its root, is waste.

Advertisements are waste.

Right now, we have an arms race between what a person wants to pay attention to and what someone else wants them to pay attention to. The companies competing see that usability rules the day, but they’re in a tough spot, because advertisements are poor usability: I should only see what I’ve asked to see. That arms race continues because the communication lines are privatized. If they were not, if we owned and supported our use of communication lines, advertising would wither, because it has no place. It’s not just annoying, it’s inefficient. It’s waste!

In some commons, companies already have complete monopolies. In other commons, companies have to compete, and they compete by having a bit better usability, being a bit more streamlined, and feigning a commons model. The commons model is the most efficient, so they are inevitably drawn toward it unless or until they can attain a monopoly. That closed, privatized property can never truly be a commons–truly be open and for the public good only–is their fatal flaw. I mean property in the broadest sense: goods that are both property and goods that are not (like information), but are legally treated like property (“intellectual property”). Companies exist for profit, and they’ll be tempted to impose on users to gain it. If users were to hold the commons, this would all be irrelevant. Companies would have to provide the service of creation, and everyone would be better off. Google is a for-profit company, and cannot help but be evil, even if they try to stave it off. They are evil by design; their goals are inherently contrary to the public good.

By owning the commons, the public retains control of the purposes of business. The public says “We need this.” Today it’s backwards, business own the commons and they tell us “You need this.” We need their products, we need their services, we need their jobs, we need their vision of ourselves to define our own damn identity.


3 Comments Stan Rhodes: Advertising is waste

  1. AvatarSimon Edhouse

    Its hard for me to not comment on this post. Because, within Stan Rhode’s text there are a few hot-button issues for me. #1 ~ ‘fixing adverting’ is one… I don’t think advertising has to be so lame; it is, because of many underlying forces and reasons.

    #2 ~ The other hot-button that popped out of the text for me was the double proposition of:

    “Right now, we have an arms race between what a person wants to pay attention to and what someone else wants them to pay attention to.

    and within the same paragraph:

    That arms race continues because the communication lines are privatized.

    This is right on my desired ’cause célèbre’ at the moment and that is trying to get people to see the difference between ‘Communication’ and ‘Connectivity’ within the internet context. – Or to paraphrase that; between the Web & the Internet. Its the client-server system of the Web that has become effectively ‘privatized’, and these are the “communication lines” to which Stan refers. The client-server system of the Web has been infected with the ubiquitous scourge of mass poorly targeted, mostly remnant, ad-inventory. (a ‘remnant-ad’ is a web ad that nobody really cares about that gets fired off indiscriminately to publisher websites, by an ad-exchange or ad-network to fill someone’s meaningless quota)

    Its widely known, within ad-circles that more tan 99% of web-users don’t click on ads (based on double-click data), so ‘the people’ have spoken… but the system goes on. An immediate solution for Stan might be Adblock,for Firefox ( being downloaded by >300K users per month.

    A broader solution will take time, but some smart people are working on it. 😉

  2. AvatarS Rhodes

    Simon, I think your insight is all wet. You keep saying there’s an important difference between connectivity and communication people need to “get”, but why, or how, would we have one without the other? Both are necessary components. Neither is more fundamental than the other. You say “email” is “communication” (and you just said that paraphrases to “Web,” which makes even less sense), and SMTP is “connectivity?” In meatspace, I guess you see language as connectivity and conversation as communication? And the worry about Jane User not always drawing this distinction is what? You’ve defined communication a particular way you like and then made it your mission to educate people on the difference.

    The internet is point-to-point communication, just ask Van Jacobson.

    You seem to assume that I mean “Web” when I don’t, and then call me out on it. Also, how is that a double proposition? You don’t say, likely because it isn’t one. Unless I’m in a local network, all the hardware between me and Joe Peer is privatized. The internet backbone is obviously way more than the Web, and it’s obviously privatized.

    Advertising is waste. Advertising doesn’t have to be so lame? Right! It doesn’t have to be! It’s trying to get us to waste our attention, and often, our money. That’s the fundamental principle of all “underlying forces and reasons.” Advertisements are counter-beneficial to users.

    We need to take the communication commons, but advertising is certainly not the only reason we need the commons. Undoubtedly there is some fuzziness to the concept of the advertisement, because a friend telling me about a product might be considered an advertisement. However, having viral marketing be the most prominent form of “ad” would certainly be an improvement over today.

    Really, though, it’s the last two paragraphs of your comment that blow me away. You don’t have a concrete criticism or point so you just attempt to paint me as ignorant. Then again, that tells me you’re not interested in discussing ideas; I accidentally hit your “hot-button,” and your knee jerked.

  3. AvatarSimon Edhouse


    didn’t mean to cause any offense… Let me clarify what I mean.

    Firstly, I agree that the way advertising is currently formulated and delivered is largely wasteful. The statistic that >99% of web users don’t click on ads is almost empirical proof of that. However, I don’t think it has to be like that… I think, if certain forces were brought to bear, over time, advertising could become more responsive and more relevant to each individual user. But, the client-server paradigm of the web does not lend itself to this eventuality.

    Making distinctions between Connectivity, Communications and Transactions may seem pointless or esoteric to you, but making these classifications is actually about the ‘deconstruction’ of the forces at work on the internet, and I sincerely believe that this is necessary.

    Contrary to what you say; in fact you can not have ‘communication’ without ‘connectivity’, so the latter is indeed more fundamental; as long as you agree with the definition being that fundamentality in this discussion is about which ‘enables’ the other. If you as ‘the reader’ don’t want to (for the sake of that discussion) agree to this definition, then any ongoing discussion will be pointless.

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