Home > Rant > Don’t you love targeted advertising?

Don’t you love targeted advertising?

March 23, 2009

Tech-microcelebrity Robert Scoble loves Facebook. Facebook can do no wrong, and Mark Zuckerberg is going to make billions. Wait, make that trillions.

How will he do that via Facebook? Targeted advertising, that’s how:

Yes, we’re having another baby. But look at what did NOT happen on Twitter: not a single diaper company contacted us yet. Not a single maternity clothing company. Not a single car company (yes, we’re going to buy a new one soon). Not a single camera company (already bought a new one for this occassion). Not a single insurance company (I need more). Not a single bank (I need to start saving for another college student). Not a single stroller company (need a new one that can hold two). Not a single vitamin company (Maryam is going through her prenatal vitamins at a good clip). Not a single shoe company (Maryam needs new shoes for pregnancy, and Milan is growing fast too).

That will NOT last. [Scobleizer]

I was actually with him as long as he was talking about why Zuckerberg shouldn’t care about users who whine every time Facebook changes anything. Yes, it is his company and he should run it according to his vision and business plan.

But Scoble lost me when he cribbed about the lack of people shilling their stuff to him on Twitter. Do you know many people this trailblazer follows on Twitter? That would be 81,453, as I am typing this post. Here, see for yourself. Can you imagine the insanity that his Twitter homepage must be? At an extremely conservative estimate of 1 update per day from each of those users, he gets an update every second. And that’s a conservative estimate, mind you. And on top of that cacophony, he actually wants more.

Oh yes, they should be targeted at him. That way he can just see how many people have written specifically to him rather than broadcasting it for everyone. Sure, except that once such targeting becomes possible, every spammer is going to start targeting everyone. Have you seen Gmail’s contextual advertising?

I want targeted ads like I want a targeted bullet in my head. Which is to say, not at all (I want to very clear on this). In my entire online experience, I am yet to click (intentionally) on a single advertisement while looking to buy something. When I want to buy something (online or otherwise), I can search for it myself. Thank you very much.

Now, this is not to say that targeted advertisements can’t make money. They can. They do. There are a lot of people who click on them to find stuff.

But that has got nothing to do with why Zuckerberg should or shouldn’t listen to Facebook users’ complaints about changes in the interface. That’s fairly straightforward. It is his company, and it provides you a free service. You are free to join or leave at your own convenience (the debates about Terms of Use etc. would be relevant to that, naturally). You can whine all you want, but Zuckerberg is under no obligation to explain his business strategy to anyone except his investors.

The problem here is that, as always, Scoble inserts himself into an explanation without any relevance whatsoever. He asserts that people are not going to move away from Facebook because of interface changes. How does he know that?

Oh, wait, they aren’t leaving! How do I know that?

Because my wife Maryam is totally addicted to Facebook. She hasn’t left. She hasn’t slowed down. She just told me she didn’t like the new design and made some noises that she was only going to use the iPhone version (not true in my observations). So, if Zuckerberg didn’t lose Maryam and her friends, he’s safe. He SHOULD NOT LISTEN to those who are saying the new design sucks. [Scobleizer]

It is like he can’t explain anything without making it personal and overshare-y. Damn irritating, and not helpful at all. Writing a blog doesn’t give you a pass on things like that, especially when you deliberately position yourself as a voice of authority on technology. It didn’t even occur to him to wonder about all those potential users who might not even sign-up for Facebook if they hear a lot of stuff about Facebook having a crappy interface. Shouldn’t that sort of “lost” users be considered at least? But serious thinking is difficult to accomplish when you are following more than 80,000 people on Twitter and wondering why nobody is offering you diapers.

I had stopped reading him a long time ago. Recently, when I heard that he lost his job, I hoped that may be, just may be, he would do some serious introspection and come back as a better tech journalist.

My hope was misplaced, of course. Here he is, the very next day, talking about how he is being accused of destroying the utility of the social graph (whatever that means) by a Facebook employee. I think I’ll just unsubscribe again.

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  1. March 27, 2009 at 10:40 am

    You know I get this impression that you don’t really like this Scoble guy

  2. March 27, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    @Gaurav: I used to read him regularly long ago. Then he became a microcelebrity.. and it was all downhill after that (he is the Vinod Kambli of tech blogging, couldn’t handle success). I am sure he is a likeable person, but his blog has become kind of pointless. Rather, the only point it has these days is “look at me, I am Scoble”.

  3. March 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Nice pic btw :-D

  4. dictator1
    March 29, 2009 at 9:50 am

    NOO!
    The earlier Overlord image was more in keeping with a mighty overlord. This one reminds me of Shekhar Kapoor. Please to revert back.

  5. March 30, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    The pic reminds me of some pimp for cheap ass hooker, not that there is anything wrong with that.

  6. March 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    And it is not revert back :-D

  7. dictator1
    March 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Gauravji,
    Please take pity on this poor woman and fix your blog! Remove all the hundred and one things you have there, so that page opens in less than 5 minutes.
    Thank you.
    Also,
    The pic reminds me of some pimp for cheap ass hooker,
    Ergo, Shekhar Kapoor.
    Ok, not cheap but still a pimp. I cant stand that man (must be all that facial hair).

  8. April 14, 2009 at 10:40 am

    @Gaurav, @dictator1: The image is merely a depiction of the Overlord in an alternate universe. Your perception of the image is shaped by your personal experiences. I can’t help it if it reminds Gaurav of a pimp for some cheap ass hooker that he hired because he can’t get laid, or of Shekhar Kapoor if the Dictator happens to be his fan (admitting the problem is the first step towards finding a solution).

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