Essays On Original Sin

As a rule, the ads that are worth the most money are those that appear when you’re ready to make a purchase—the ads that appear on Google when you’re searching for a new car or for someone to repair your roof can be sold for dollars per click because advertisers know you’re already interested in the services they are offering and that you’re likely to make an expensive purchase.But most online advertising doesn’t follow your interest; it competes for your attention.The key part of investor storytime is persuading investors that your ads will be worth more than everyone else’s ads.

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Don Marti uses the same set of Facebook earning numbers to demonstrate that print newspapers make roughly four times as much money in advertising as Facebook does in the United States.

Print advertising generates these enviable, if shrinking, numbers despite capturing only about 14 minutes a day of Americans’ attention.

When that business failed to catch on, we became a webpage-hosting provider and proto-social network.

Over the course of five years, we tried dozens of revenue models, printing out shiny new business plans to sell each one. Take a share of revenue when our users bought mutual funds after reading our investment advice!

All of us have screwed up situations in our lives so badly that we’ve been forced to explain our actions by reminding everyone of our good intentions.

The fiasco I want to talk about is the World Wide Web, specifically, the advertising-supported, “free as in beer” constellation of social networks, services, and content that represents so much of the present day web industry.Last quarter, Facebook reported that it had 1.32 billion users, collected .91 billion in revenue and made a profit of 1 million, for a profit margin of 27 percent.Facebook is clearly doing a great job making money from ads. That’s a fascinating figure, because Facebook reports that users spend 40 minutes per day on the site, or roughly Facebook, generating content that the company profits from without getting compensated.This “print dollars, digital dimes” problem is an apparent paradox: Why are targeted digital ads worth an order of magnitude less than untargeted print ads, in terms of “attention minutes”?Marti argues that advertising in a public place, like a newspapers, builds brands in a way that private, targeted ads can’t.Investor storytime is when someone pays you to tell them how rich they’ll get when you finally put ads on your site.Pinterest is a site that runs on investor storytime. Investor storytime is not exactly advertising, but it is related to advertising.The internet spies at us at every twist and turn not because Zuckerberg, Brin, and Page are scheming, sinister masterminds, but due to good intentions gone awry.With apologies to Carlson: What we wanted to do was to build a tool that made it easy for everyone, everywhere to share knowledge, opinions, ideas and photos of cute cats.His talk is a patient explanation of how we’ve ended up with surveillance as the default, if not sole, internet business model.The talk is hilarious and insightful, and poignant precisely for the reasons Carlson’s story is.


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