"Subprime Attention Crisis" is a new book by Tim Hwang that argues that the ad-tech market is a bubble created by an ad industry doing what it does best: convincing advertisers that it is really, really good at selling its products.

wired.com/story/ad-tech-could-

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Think of department story magnate John Wanamaker's infamous "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half' and consider what a sell-job he got from his ad-agency if he thought that ONLY HALF of his ad spending was wasted!

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Writing for Wired, Gilad Edelman praises Hwang's book, which identifies the huge share of ad spending that's siphoned off by the ad-tech industry, which has interposed itself between advertisers and publishers without delivering real value to either.

This is becoming increasingly apparent: consider the Dutch public broadcaster NPO, which swapped out "behavioral ads" (chosen by profiling you) with "contextual ads" (chosen by profiling the web-page it appears on):

pluralistic.net/2020/08/05/beh

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Not only did NPO see similar or better click-through rates on ads that were served without knowing ANYTHING about the user, but more users saw those ads because the ads didn't have to get through a tracker blocker.

And, to Hwang's point, these high-performing, highly visible ads each delivered double the money to NPO, because there was no scammy ad-tech industry in the middle raking off a 50% vig for behavioral analysis, real-time auctions and other socially useless smoke-and-mirrors.

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Hwang argues that this all adds up to a bubble, where the spending is coming from purchasers who don't know what they're buying - literally, as programmatic ads are placed in realtime, so advertisers don't know which publications run their ads or how they're displayed.

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As with every bubble, there's an army of associated huxters pumping away to keep the bubble inflated: ad agencies arbitraging between advertisers and publishers, ad-tech platforms touting their devastating accuracy, and a captured rating agency controlled by FB and Google.

And Hwang points out that ad-tech isn't standalone: it's integral to the entire tech industry, woven into Amazon, Google, FB and even Apple's platforms, subsidizing them and publishers.

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When that bubble pops, it will be systemic - like the crash of 2008, which revealed how mortgages had been turned into structural elements of the entire economy.

Hwang wants to avert this calamity with a controlled deflation, with researchers aggressively calling BS on ad-tech claims, and the creation of a better, less scammy advertising ecosystem.

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Based on this review, I just bumped Hwang's book to the top of my pile. It certainly seems complementary to my own recent short book, HOW TO DESTROY SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM.

onezero.medium.com/how-to-dest

That book's core thesis is that Big Tech lies about the efficacy of its surveillance/persuasion products and achieves its dominance through common-or-garden monopolization of the sort that mediocre sociopaths have mastered since the days of the Rail Barons.

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That surveillance capitalism isn't a "rogue" capitalism, it's just "capitalism" - with surveillance, which it gets away with by creating monopolies that can capture their regulators and enmesh themselves in the national security complex.

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This isn't identical to Hwang's formulation, but it's not so divergent, either. From the review, I think the big difference is that Hwang doesn't call for a reinvigoration of traditional antitrust, nor for a renewed and muscular interoperability:

eff.org/deeplinks/2019/10/adve

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