Friday, April 25, 2014

Is Commerce Controlling Our Attention and Thinking?

I was just glancing over some Web stats regarding page views and advertising revenues and the thought occurred to me that, on the Web at least, our attention and thinking is being distorted in the direction of buyable stuff. Here's my simple reasoning, backed by some stats.

1. Web content creators in many cases are interested in monetizing their sites.
2. The way to make money on a site is to display advertisements.
3. The ads displayed are often linked to the content of the page.
4. People click on ads that offer things of interest, which are often tangible products.
5. The bigger ticket the tangible product, the more the click is likely to pay.
6. Therefore, Web content providers are rewarded more by content that lends itself directly ads offering related products than by content that does not.

Example: If I talk about cars, I might get car ads. If I talk about virtue or procrastination or Pascal's book Pensees, what advertiser will I interest? (I saw a list of top click paying phrases, and except for some oddball ones like "mesothelioma lawyers," most were about stuff you can buy.

So, should I be virtuous and discuss philosophy, the way I want to, or should I be more interested in making a buck and discuss toaster ovens or flashlights?

I suppose that the counter argument to the pretension that talking about stuff is a less noble thing than discussing philosophy is that many (most?) Web searchers are much more interested in reading about, say, the new Honda Accord (notice how cleverly I slipped that in?) that about, say, Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.

Maybe I can do both. See the next post on flashlights.

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