• AI takeaways from under-the-radar innovators: Context, creation, and communication

    4. AI innovators need people skills

    “In a world of large language models (LLMs), just being able to articulate yourself well is really what’s key to be[ing] able to program these models correctly,” said Tim Hwang, author of “Subprime Attention Crisis.”

    Hwang said that because generative AI models are trained on human data, the same standards that apply to communicating with humans, such as being clear, direct, and thoughtful, apply for talking to LLMs. “The hottest new programming language is psychology,” he said, and marketers will need to understand it better than ever to work with generative AI. That’s because generative AI functions like people do, according to Hwang. It responds better when people ask nicely, or tell it to do a good job. Understanding how to work within that framework is the key to using AI.

    #Tim_Hwang #Intelligence_artificielle

  • La publicité digitale : son utilité pour la société, ses problèmes actuels, les causes et comment travailler aux solutions

    Les rapprochements ces dernières années entre le lobby du secteur de la publicité digitale (l’Alliance Digitale, ex IAB) et les organismes d’état indépendants (Cnil, Autorité de la concurrence & Arcom) sont un premier pas pour une régulation plus efficace. Il a notamment été productif en 2020 concernant l’interprétation et l’application de loi RGPD sur le recueil du consentement des données personnelles.

    Est-il nécessaire de créer un organisme d’État indépendant spécifique à la publicité digitale ? Comme cela a été fait pour la finance de marché passé la crise des subprimes de 2008, comme nous le rappelle le livre « Le grand krach de l’attention » de Tim Hwang, qui compare ces deux secteurs ? Est-ce que l’Arcom peut monter au créneau, avec un budget renforcé ? Comment travailler avec la Cnil et l’Autorité de la concurrence, qui ont accéléré leurs travaux pour notre secteur depuis quelques années ? Comment prendre en compte les arguments des associations de protection des données personnelles comme Noyb ? Faut-il espérer créer des big techs européennes, laisser Google Meta Amazon Apple Amazon dominer le secteur, ou favoriser l’entrée des big techs chinois (BATX) ?

    #Publicité #Tim_Hwang #Publicité_numérique

  • Rising Interest Rates Might Herald the End of the Open Internet | WIRED

    Web 2.0 took off with help from the economic conditions of the 2000s. Recent moves from Reddit and Twitter signal that that era is coming to an end.

    Tim Hwang is a policy analyst and the author of Subprime Attention Crisis, a book about the global bubble of programmatic advertising. Follow him on Twitter @timhwang.

    Tianyu Fang is a writer and researcher. He was part of Chaoyang Trap, an experimental newsletter about culture and life on the Chinese internet. Follow him on Twitter @tianyuf.

    Photo-illustration: WIRED Staff; Getty Images

    The open internet once seemed inevitable. Now, as global economic woes mount and interest rates climb, the dream of the 2000s feels like it’s on its last legs. After abruptly blocking access to unregistered users at the end of last month, Elon Musk announced unprecedented caps on the number of tweets—600 for those of us who aren’t paying $8 a month—that users can read per day on Twitter. The move follows the platform’s controversial choice to restrict third-party clients back in January.

    This wasn’t a standalone event. Reddit announced in April that it would begin charging third-party developers for API calls this month. The Reddit client Apollo would have to pay more than $20 million a year under new pricing, so it closed down, triggering thousands of subreddits to go dark in protest against Reddit’s new policy. The company went ahead with its plan anyway.

    Leaders at both companies have blamed this new restrictiveness on AI companies unfairly benefitting from open access to data. Musk has said that Twitter needs rate limits because AI companies are scraping its data to train large language models. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has cited similar reasons for the company’s decision to lock down its API ahead of a potential IPO this year.

    These statements mark a major shift in the rhetoric and business calculus of Silicon Valley. AI serves as a convenient boogeyman, but it is a distraction from a more fundamental pivot in thinking. Whereas open data and protocols were once seen as the critical cornerstone of successful internet business, technology leaders now see these features as a threat to the continued profitability of their platforms.

    It wasn’t always this way. The heady days of Web 2.0 were characterized by a celebration of the web as a channel through which data was abundant and widely available. Making data open through an API or some other means was considered a key way to increase a company’s value. Doing so could also help platforms flourish as developers integrated the data into their own apps, users enriched datasets with their own contributions, and fans shared products widely across the web. The rapid success of sites like Google Maps—which made expensive geospatial data widely available to the public for the first time—heralded an era where companies could profit through free, mass dissemination of information.

    “Information Wants To Be Free” became a rallying cry. Publisher Tim O’Reilly would champion the idea that business success in Web 2.0 depended on companies “disagreeing with the consensus” and making data widely accessible rather than keeping it private. Kevin Kelly marveled in WIRED in 2005 that “when a company opens its databases to users … [t]he corporation’s data becomes part of the commons and an invitation to participate. People who take advantage of these capabilities are no longer customers; they’re the company’s developers, vendors, skunk works, and fan base.” Investors also perceived the opportunity to generate vast wealth. Google was “most certainly the standard bearer for Web 2.0,” and its wildly profitable model of monetizing free, open data was deeply influential to a whole generation of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

    Of course, the ideology of Web 2.0 would not have evolved the way it did were it not for the highly unusual macroeconomic conditions of the 2000s and early 2010s. Thanks to historically low interest rates, spending money on speculative ventures was uniquely possible. Financial institutions had the flexibility on their balance sheets to embrace the idea that the internet reversed the normal laws of commercial gravity: It was possible for a company to give away its most valuable data and still get rich quick. In short, a zero interest-rate policy, or ZIRP, subsidized investor risk-taking on the promise that open data would become the fundamental paradigm of many Google-scale companies, not just a handful.

    Web 2.0 ideologies normalized much of what we think of as foundational to the web today. User tagging and sharing features, freely syndicated and embeddable links to content, and an ecosystem of third-party apps all have their roots in the commitments made to build an open web. Indeed, one of the reasons that the recent maneuvers of Musk and Huffman seem so shocking is that we have come to expect data will be widely and freely available, and that platforms will be willing to support people that build on it.

    But the marriage between the commercial interests of technology companies and the participatory web has always been one of convenience. The global campaign by central banks to curtail inflation through aggressive interest rate hikes changes the fundamental economics of technology. Rather than facing a landscape of investors willing to buy into a hazy dream of the open web, leaders like Musk and Huffman now confront a world where clear returns need to be seen today if not yesterday.

    This presages major changes ahead for the design of the internet and the rights of users. Twitter and Reddit are pioneering an approach to platform management (or mismanagement) that will likely spread elsewhere across the web. It will become increasingly difficult to access content without logging in, verifying an identity, or paying a toll. User data will become less exportable and less shareable, and there will be increasingly fewer expectations that it will be preserved. Third-parties that have relied on the free flow of data online—from app-makers to journalists—will find APIs ever more expensive to access and scraping harder than ever before.

    We should not let the open web die a quiet death. No doubt much of the foundational rhetoric of Web 2.0 is cringeworthy in the harsh light of 2023. But it is important to remember that the core project of building a participatory web where data can be shared, improved, critiqued, remixed, and widely disseminated by anyone is still genuinely worthwhile.

    The way the global economic landscape is shifting right now creates short-sighted incentives toward closure. In response, the open web ought to be enshrined as a matter of law. New regulations that secure rights around the portability of user data, protect the continued accessibility of crucial APIs to third parties, and clarify the long-ambiguous rules surrounding scraping would all help ensure that the promise of a free, dynamic, competitive internet can be preserved in the coming decade.

    For too long, advocates for the open web have implicitly relied on naive beliefs that the network is inherently open, or that web companies would serve as unshakable defenders of their stated values. The opening innings of the post-ZIRP world show how broader economic conditions have actually played the larger role in architecting how the internet looks and feels to this point. Believers in a participatory internet need to reach for stronger tools to mitigate the effects of these deep economic shifts, ensuring that openness can continue to be embedded into the spaces that we inhabit online.

    Tim Hwang est l’auteur de “Le grand krach de l’attention”

    #Tim_Hwang #Internet_ouvert #Open_data

  • Peak social media: The ads machine | Financial Times

    This is an audio transcript of the Tech Tonic podcast episode: ‘Peak social media: The ads machine’


    Elaine Moore
    So here’s a question. Who does the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, turn to for advice? There was a time when that person was Roger McNamee. He’s a veteran tech investor. And in 2006, he was sitting in his office in Silicon Valley when his phone rang. (Phone ringing)

    Roger McNamee
    I get a phone call from one of Mark’s senior executives who said, “My boss is facing a huge crisis and he needs to talk to somebody who is very experienced but not conflicted. Would you be willing to take a meeting with Mark?”

    Elaine Moore
    McNamee had been putting money into tech start-ups since the 1980s. He knew the scene well. His opinions were respected. Mark Zuckerberg had started Facebook just two years earlier, but his new social media platform was already taking off, gathering millions of users. And Zuckerberg had a big decision to make.

    Roger McNamee
    Mark came by my office. And keep in mind, he was 22. So this was the middle of 2006. He was 22. I was 50. And he looked just like Mark Zuckerberg. I mean, you know, he had the sandals and the skinny jeans, the grey T-shirt, the hoodie. And we opened the meeting by me introducing myself and saying, “Mark, if it has not already happened, either Microsoft or Yahoo is going to offer $1bn for Facebook. And everybody you know — your board of directors, your investors, your employees, your management team, your parents — are gonna tell you, Mark, sell the company. You’ll have $650mn of your own money. You can go out and change the world. Your venture capitalist will offer to back your next company. He’ll tell you it will be better than Facebook. And I’m here to tell you that that’s all garbage.”

    Elaine Moore
    McNamee had already watched several tech companies change the face of the internet. He’d seen Google dominate the search engine and Amazon master online shopping, and he thought Facebook had the potential to turn social networking into something just as big. So he told Zuckerberg, don’t sell — not even for $1bn.

    Roger McNamee
    You’re gonna have the first really huge social media platform that does a really good thing for society, and it’ll only happen if you see this through. If you sell the company, it won’t work that way. He doesn’t say a thing. He goes through a series of thinker poses. He’s obviously thinking really hard about what I said to him, you know, I mean, the presence of an Olympic-class thinker and . . . after five minutes he goes, “What you just said, that story you told, that’s why I’m here. Yahoo’s offered $1bn.” And I said, “Well, do you want to sell the company?” He goes, “I don’t want to disappoint everybody. But no, I don’t want to sell.” And so I explained to him how he could very gracefully explain to everybody that, “Hey, we’re doing really, really well. This is not a good time to sell the company. You signed up to back my vision, and I still believe in my vision, so let’s go for it.” And I was a true believer.

    Elaine Moore
    Zuckerberg didn’t sell. Instead, he went on to turn Facebook from a social network with a few million users into a global giant that ended up connecting 3bn people around the world. And in the process, he turned social media into a moneymaking machine and Facebook into one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. How did he do it? Well, as he told the US Congress years later: with advertising.

    Orrin Hatch
    Mr Zuckerberg, I remember well your first visit to Capitol Hill back in 2010. You said back then that Facebook would always be free. How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?

    Mark Zuckerberg
    Senator, we run ads.


    Elaine Moore
    This is Tech Tonic from the Financial Times. I’m Elaine Moore. This season of the podcast is about the future of social media. I’m asking whether the era of social media — one created by platforms like Facebook more than 15 years ago — is coming to an end. And if so, what comes next? In this episode, how Mark Zuckerberg used ads to turn social networking into a trillion-dollar business and why, after a decade of incredible growth, he now thinks the future of the company lies in a completely different direction.


    Advertising powers social media. That’s why the likes of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp are free. But advertising wasn’t always going to be the dominant business model of the internet.

    Ethan Zuckerman
    It seemed really peculiar in the late ‘90s that we were going to use the same business model as, say, print magazines. Everyone felt like advertising was just a very poor compromise. Even in the late ‘90s no one liked it. We just couldn’t make anything else work.

    Elaine Moore
    Ethan Zuckerman is a professor at the University of Massachusetts. He focuses on public policy and media. But back in the ‘90s, he co-founded an internet start-up, a kind of precursor to social media, and it had a problem common to start-ups: how to make money.

    Ethan Zuckerman
    I was one of the founding team for a company called Tripod.com. Tripod was one of the very first user-generated content sites on the web, which is to say our business model was giving people a little bit of internet space with which they could build their own personal homepages. This turned out to be incredibly popular. We had millions and millions of users who wanted their own little piece of the web. They wanted to talk about their hobbies. They wanted to talk about their interests. What they did not want to do was pay.

    Elaine Moore
    Zuckerman and his colleagues hoped people might sign up for a subscription to use their platform. But no one was interested. They thought about some kind of system of micropayments, but that didn’t work either. The only way to make money was to sell space on the platform to advertisers. This led to some interesting early innovations in the world of online advertising, like the one that Zuckerman himself invented: the pop-up ad.

    Ethan Zuckerman
    Advertisers were not completely comfortable with the idea of being on content that didn’t have editorial control. They were very worried that users might say things that were racist or inflammatory or stupid or in some way in conflict with their brands. And so my boss asked me, can you find some way of putting some distance between the advertisement, which we need to survive and the user’s content, which is where we were getting all of our traffic? And in a fit of whatever is the opposite of genius, I came up with the pop-up ad. So the idea was, well, they’re not in the same window anymore. Your homepage is in one window, the ad is in a different window. Everyone will be happy. Spoiler alert: no one was happy.

    Elaine Moore
    If you used the internet in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, pop-up ads were the bane of your existence. Everywhere you went little adverts would appear all over your screen. It was like a game of Whac-A-Mole. You’d have to go around closing them before you could see the web page you were trying to visit. If that rings any bells, Zuckerman is full of remorse for the hassle he inadvertently caused you. By the early 2000s, browsers started to block pop-up ads. They’re now a relic of the ‘90s internet. But other innovations around advertising were more successful. Early internet builders like Zuckerman found that web pages made by users themselves, user-generated content, told you things about their creators. And it turned out that this information was really useful to advertisers.

    Ethan Zuckerman
    We were interested in targeting ads based on the content of a user’s page. We used very primitive, very early machine learning to say this is a page about cars or this is a page about video games, and tried to target based on that. Where it’s gone from here, of course, is it’s gotten vastly more surveillance. The way that ad targeting works now is we follow you all over the web and then we try to make guesses at who you are based on what you do.

    Elaine Moore
    When Facebook came along, it took this idea of targeted advertising to a whole new level. Facebook was attractive to advertisers because it had so many users. That meant a lot of potential customers to see ad, click on links and buy products. But it also had a lot of information about those users. When you signed up for a profile, you provided things like your birthday, your hometown, and your relationship status. Using the like button, you told Facebook all about your interests. But the real turning point came when Facebook started to absorb even more data — tracking the activity of its users, even when they weren’t on Facebook.

    Roger McNamee
    For the longest time, Mark’s view was “I’m only gonna use the data that people give us inside Facebook.” And Facebook gave advertisers access to things they couldn’t get anywhere else — all kinds of emotional and personal data. But in 2013, Mark changed his position.

    Elaine Moore
    For the Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee, Zuckerberg’s decision to start gathering vast amounts of data on users from all over the web was the turning point for Facebook’s business. It could offer advertisers something they couldn’t get anywhere else.

    Roger McNamee
    They essentially went from not having third-party data to having every piece of third-party data imaginable. And with it, the targeting went from whatever it was, which was not good enough, to something that advertisers perceived as absolutely unique, better than anything available anywhere else. And Facebook, because it had more users than anyone else, could credibly argue in 2013 that they could provide an advertiser with the equivalent of the US Super Bowl, 365 days a year. And that changed everything overnight.

    Elaine Moore
    Facebook could build up a comprehensive profile of you, putting you into specific categories of consumer and then offering advertisers the opportunity to put exactly the right adverts tailored to you in front of you when you went online. After his first meeting with Zuckerberg in 2006, McNamee began regularly advising the new founder. He invested in the company and says he helped Zuckerberg recruit Sheryl Sandberg, credited with driving the growth of the ads business. But in recent years, McNamee has started to speak out against Facebook’s data-gathering habits and the way that he believes users can be manipulated by disinformation campaigns that undermine society. He says he tried to warn Facebook.

    Roger McNamee
    I reached out to my former advisees, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, in October of 2016 to warn them because I thought that it would be bad for the company to get a reputation for undermining civil rights and democracy. I don’t think any company wants that. But it turns out that the temptations offered by data and the ability to manipulate people’s choices, they were irresistible because in the end, every time you did one of the things that caused harm, your stock price went up a lot because those things were so profitable. And when I began talking about the harms of Facebook, people looked at me and go, “Roger, what are you talking about? The stock is going up every day.”

    Elaine Moore
    It turned out that using data to sell targeted ads was extremely lucrative. The money poured in. Along with Google, Facebook came to dominate global digital advertising. By 2021, it had become a trillion-dollar company. But lately, there are signs that Facebook’s astonishing growth is faltering. At the end of 2021, the platform’s user base shrank for the first time. Last year, for the first time ever, revenues also fell. It led investors and analysts to wonder: is Facebook running out of steam?

    Facebook turned itself into a social media giant by gathering huge amounts of data and perfecting the digital ads business.

    Steven Levy
    Facebook was able to get an amazing amount of information on people with relatively few inputs.

    Elaine Moore
    Steven Levy has followed Facebook since the beginning. He’s editor-at-large at Wired and spent years embedded with the company for his book Inside Facebook. He says the sophistication of the ads business that Facebook built is extremely impressive.

    Steven Levy
    One turning point was the like button. By simply indicating what pieces of content you liked, Facebook knew an incredible amount about you. One researcher figured out that with 10 likes, Facebook could figure out your political affiliation, your sexual orientation, and other things. With 30 likes, it would know you as well as a friend. With 100 likes, it would know you as well as a close friend. And with a couple hundred likes, it would know you as well as your spouse.

    Elaine Moore
    But today there are questions about whether targeted ads can keep delivering the same level of growth for Facebook. It’s getting harder for companies that rely on this business model to make money. Last year, social media companies saw their share prices plummet. Snap, the company behind Snapchat, fell 80 per cent, and Facebook, now rebranded as Meta, saw its market value fall 64 per cent. In response, Zuckerberg cut thousands of jobs.

    One problem is that there’s been a general downturn in the economy, which means companies have cut back on the money they spend on advertising. But there’s a broader cause for concern — that the endless stream of data gathered from users, the fuel that powers the whole digital advertising machine might be drying up.

    Recently, Apple made a small but significant change to its iPhone privacy settings. Before, apps like Facebook could track user behaviour automatically unless users opted out. Now users were being explicitly asked if they wanted to be targeted for ads. The majority appear to have said no. Meta estimated that this move alone could cost the company $10bn in lost ad revenue.

    Steven Levy
    When Apple made it more difficult for them, that was a blow because I think Facebook came to take it for granted that its . . . our business was inviolable. They thought that they keep raking it in through advertising and they would have that data that no one else had and deliver value to advertisers that no one else could match. And they wouldn’t have to worry about that.


    Elaine Moore
    The thing is, Apple changing its privacy settings may not be the last restriction on user data. Over the years, there’s been a growing concern about the amount of information that social media platforms gather. Around the world, regulators want to better police how that data is used. That could mean even less access to data for platforms like Facebook. And as a result, less ad revenue. But some people think there’s an even more fundamental problem — that targeted digital advertising was never as effective as it claimed to be. Maybe the model that helped to build the modern social media economy was always flawed.

    Tim Hwang
    The dream of digital advertising, you know, what Facebook was selling early on was, “Hey, we’re an advertising company, but we’re way better than traditional advertising. I can find the consumer that is just poised to buy your product. I can deliver this message to them at the right place at the right time, and they will go buy the product.” There’s a lot of research to suggest that those things might just fundamentally not be true.

    Elaine Moore
    Tim Hwang used to work for Google, the other major seller of digital ad space along with Facebook. He says the whole idea of targeted advertising — using data to offer effective ads — might be oversold.

    Tim Hwang
    It’s actually unclear whether or not the ad ever, in fact, reaches a person at all. So there’s some data to suggest that basically about 56 per cent of ads are never seen, right? Like it’s delivered to someone’s screen, but they just browse through it. They don’t see it. There’s also a lot of fraud in the system. So it’s actually unclear whether or not that click-through, right, actually belongs to a person or belongs to a bot. So some estimates suggest that even like one out of every $3 spent on the ad ecosystem is fraudulent. Actually, it’s delivered to a bot or delivered to what’s known as a click farm, or someone is sort of paid literally to kind of click on ads.

    Elaine Moore
    Hwang also says that even when ads do reach the right person, it’s not clear they actually encourage that person to buy the product.

    Tim Hwang
    What the advertiser sees is we put money into online ads and a person bought the product. One of the interesting things about those consumers is that they would have bought the product anyways even if you hadn’t advertised to them. And so actually in many cases you’re just targeting consumers that would have purchased anyways.

    Elaine Moore
    But surely digital advertising, it is going towards a more specific group than if you just put an advert into a newspaper?

    Tim Hwang
    Well, I would actually even challenge that as well. There’s a study that basically suggests about 41 per cent of ad data may be inaccurate. So, you know, the dream is, hey, you can target Tim Hwang. He’s a male, 25 to 35, you know, living on the East Coast of the United States. When actually the ad arrives, it turns out you’re targeting female, 75 to 95, living in the UK. And so I think there actually is real questions even about the veracity of the data collected and whether or not, in fact, you are getting better results.

    Elaine Moore
    Hwang thinks the entire digital advertising industry is in a bit of a bubble, and he says the current troubles in the ads market — advertisers spending less, worries about access to user data — could expose that.

    You talk about this idea that the digital advertising ecosystem is at risk of collapsing or potentially is about to collapse. Why is that happening right now?

    Tim Hwang
    So I think there’s a couple of things. First one is just the larger macroeconomic environment. The sort of downward pressure on the global economy is causing a lot of industries to pull back on their advertising spend. There’s kind of a question about, like, once you cut all this ad spend, is there actually a change in the bottom line of these businesses? That’s one thing that could really shake the confidence of the industry is, like, what was all this advertising for? If when we cut budgets, there’s not really a huge material impact on our outcomes.

    I think the second one that I’ll point out is that there is indeed a big push both on the government side, right, through, say, the EU GDPR or California’s CPRA, and also on the company side, right. Like Apple is increasingly implementing all of these privacy rules. And the worry that you’ve heard from the ad industry is, OK, well, once we lose access to all this data, we just won’t be able to get ads to work as well anymore. And they think we’re about to run this really big experiment, which is, is that the case? Are we actually gonna live in a world where, like, ads are way less effective than they used to be? We may just discover that, like, actually we didn’t need all this data to begin with for ads and that programmatic advertising might have been built on kind of the dream of targeted ads more than the reality.

    Elaine Moore
    Even if the digital ads market doesn’t crash, as Tim Hwang says it might, it’s no longer providing Facebook with the same levels of growth it once did. The Facebook platform is reaching saturation. It has nearly 3bn monthly active users around the world, but it looks like that might be the limit. Steven Levy, who wrote a book about Facebook, says this is a real problem for Mark Zuckerberg, who he says has been obsessed with growth above everything else since the beginning.

    Steven Levy
    There’s only so many billions of people on Earth. You can’t get to the people in China, which is the biggest user of the internet and social media in the world. And the last couple of billion are really, really hard to reach. They don’t have much money. And even if you got them on social media, they couldn’t deliver you much profits. So when he goes to Wall Street and announces that there’s no growth, the stock goes down, sometimes dramatically. Without growth, he’s in trouble.

    Elaine Moore
    Levy says this search for growth explains one of the biggest decisions Mark Zuckerberg has ever made. In 2021, he took his company, the most successful social media company in the world, and changed its name from Facebook to Meta. He announced that the company’s focus was now on building the metaverse.

    Mark Zuckerberg
    We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet. We’ll be able to feel present like we’re right there with people, no matter how far apart we actually are. We’ll be able to express ourselves in new, joyful, completely immersive ways, and that’s going to unlock a lot of amazing new experiences.

    Steven Levy
    Zuckerberg’s holy grail is to move our social media to the metaverse. It makes sense if you’re obsessed with growth as the pillar of the way you operate a business, then when you can’t keep growing at the rate you were and you are really reaching the ceiling, move to someplace new where you could start from scratch and then grow billions from a few thousand rather than try to eke out the last billion or so.

    Elaine Moore
    Zuckerberg envisions repeating the success of Facebook in a completely new realm, with users wearing Meta VR headsets to access Meta-run virtual worlds.

    Meta video clip
    Oh, hey, Mark . . . Hey, what’s going on? Hey, Mark . . . Hi . . . What’s up, Mark? Whoa, we’re floating in space? Uh-huh. Who made this place? It’s awesome . . . This place is amazing.

    Elaine Moore
    Right now, the jury is still out on whether this huge bet will pay off. So far, take-up has been slow and costs have been high. Operating losses attributed to Meta’s Reality Labs — the part of the company working on the metaverse — exceed $37bn. But there are questions about whether any of us really want to spend our time wearing bulky VR headsets. If Zuckerberg is right, then maybe the future of social media will be in the metaverse. But in the meantime, Levy says all that time and money is adding to a sense that the old Facebook social media platform is stagnating. Not only is it not growing at the same pace, he says, it’s not innovating either.

    Steven Levy
    You could argue that the social media site has not been particularly innovative for probably a decade. They have generally been mimicking what seems popular in social media at the moment. So Snapchat comes up and Facebook, after unsuccessfully trying to buy it, comes up with a clone. Snapchat comes up with its stories feature, Facebook successfully copies that, first in Instagram, then in Facebook. Clubhouse, which is an audio-only social media product, looked like it was exciting and it’s going to be a big thing. And Facebook came up with its own version, right? You really would be hard-pressed to name a breakthrough product in social media in the last decade that Facebook came up with on its own.

    Elaine Moore
    Levy says Zuckerberg’s focus on the metaverse isn’t helping with this lack of innovation. He says all the talented people at Meta are working on metaverse projects rather than how to make the existing social media platforms better. So has Zuckerberg given up on Facebook?

    Steven Levy
    Well, Zuckerberg would never say that he has given up on Facebook, but he should be thinking just as innovatively in the social media as he is in the metaverse. It is a social media company. Its revenues come from social media. And if I were running that company, it would seem to me that my challenge would be to bring innovation to social media. And I don’t think that’s impossible. Maybe if that was your focus, they say, how can we reinvent social media without having to put a headset on but use just the tools of mobile and this connectedness to come up with something new like TikTok did. Maybe that would be the path for Meta.

    Elaine Moore
    If you want an example of peak social media, Facebook might be it. The breadth of its social connections will be hard for any company to ever replicate. But for many of us, it’s no longer engaging. Its ads business is less robust these days, and there are questions about its appeal to younger users. Even the man who made it all happen, Mark Zuckerberg, is more keen to talk about AI and VR than Facebook communities.

    Whether we do or choose to one day live in the metaverse or not, Facebook’s reign as the most important social media platform in the world may be over. But despite this, it’s worth remembering that Facebook is still the biggest social media platform by far. If this is the beginning of its decline, Facebook watchers say that it’s likely to be a long and slow one. And that might be true of social media as a whole.

    Steven Levy
    Well, giant platforms just don’t go away all at once. They slowly fade. But ultimately, I think people are questioning whether the social media era where social media is, like, a dominant force, is coming to an end where it’ll still exist but no longer be the growth platforms. So there is a sense that social media has sort of reached the end of its innovation and growth stage.

    Elaine Moore
    In the next episode of Tech Tonic, social media is supposed to be fun, but maybe it’s just not good for us.

    Emma Lembke
    Why? Like, why is it that my phone has so much control over me? How am I allowing it to do that? And why is no one speaking up about this?

    Elaine Moore
    US lawmakers are worried that social media is harming us and young people in particular. What does that mean for the future of the platforms?

    Katie Paul
    Kids are a huge market for these companies and it will really cut into their bottom line if they can no longer collect these data points on children.


    Elaine Moore
    You’ve been listening to Tech Tonic from the Financial Times with me, Elaine Moore. The producer is Josh Gabert-Doyon, and the senior producer is Edwin Lane. Manuela Saragosa is executive producer. Sound design is by Breen Turner and Samantha Giovinco. Original scoring by Metaphor Music.

    And before you go, we’re keen to hear more from our listeners about this show, and we want to know what you’d like to hear more of. So we’re running a survey which you can find at ft.com/techtonicsurvey. It takes around 10 minutes to complete, and we’d appreciate your feedback.


    #Publicité #Tim_Hwang #Médias_sociaux #Facebook

  • Next-gen content farms are using AI-generated text to spin up junk websites | MIT Technology Review

    Pour bien comprendre le phénomène (l’arnaque !) et le rôle des ^mateformes (ici Google), un seul bon livre : Le grand Krack de l’attention de Tim Hwang

    The news: AI chatbots are filling junk websites with AI-generated text that attracts paying advertisers. More than 140 major brands are paying for ads that end up on unreliable AI-written sites, likely without their knowledge, according to a new report.

    Making money from junk: Most companies that advertise online automatically bid on spots to run those ads through a practice called “programmatic advertising.” As a result, big brands end up paying for ad placements on sites that they may have never heard of before, with little to no human oversight. To take advantage, content farms have sprung up where low-paid humans use AI to churn out low-quality content to attract maximum ad revenue.

    Why it matters: Ninety percent of the ads from major brands found on these AI-generated news sites were served by Google, in violation of the company’s own policies. The practice threatens to hasten the arrival of a glitchy, spammy internet that is overrun by AI-generated content, as well as wasting massive amounts of ad money.

    #Economie_attention #Tim_Hwang #Google

  • La faillite de « Vice », le groupe de médias américain

    Le groupe de médias d’information américain Vice s’est déclaré en faillite. Dans un contexte de recul du marché publicitaire, cette annonce était attendue sur le marché depuis quelques semaines. Un consortium, dont la société d’investissement Fortress Investment Group, le principal créancier de Vice, va prendre le contrôle du groupe pour 225 millions de dollars, sauf offre supérieure par d’autres parties, selon le communiqué publié lundi 15 mai.

    Vice Media Group, qui avait été valorisé 5,7 milliards de dollars en 2017, produit des contenus dans 25 langues, avec plus d’une trentaine de bureaux dans le monde. Le groupe de médias, à l’accès gratuit, s’appuie principalement sur la publicité pour générer des revenus. Mais avec la dégradation de la conjoncture économique, le marché publicitaire s’est tendu, pour être majoritairement capté par les géants technologiques, comme Google et Facebook . Vice poursuivra ses activités durant toute la procédure, précise le média.

    Tiens, c’est exactement ce que dénonce Tim Hwang dans son livre "Le grand krach de l’attention"

    #Vice #Publicité #Captation #Tim_Hwang

  • Dixième tendance de l’étude 366/BVA : La fatigue du buzz - Influencia

    En 2004, il y a un siècle, Patrick Le Lay scandalisait l’opinion en déclarant que le métier de TF1, chaîne qu’il dirigeait alors, consistait à « vendre du temps de cerveau disponible » aux annonceurs. En 2004, un certain Mark Zuckerberg, étudiant à Harvard, créait Facebook. Netflix était le nom d’une entreprise américaine d’abonnement à la livraison de DVD. Le smartphone n’existait pas.

    En 2022, la France compte 53,5 millions d’utilisateurs actifs sur les réseaux sociaux, et les Français passent en moyenne 1 h 46 chaque jour sur ces derniers. 61 % des foyers français sont abonnés à un service de SVOD et la presse se lit autant sur smartphone que sur papier.

    Le « temps de cerveau disponible » ne choquerait plus grand monde aujourd’hui. L’économie de l’attention est devenue le nouvel horizon du capitalisme et d’aucuns, à l’instar de Tim Hwang (Le grand krach de l’attention. Février 2022), établissent un parallèle entre cette « bulle » et celle des subprimes, pronostiquant son explosion imminente. Qu’il s’agisse d’information ou de divertissement, nous sommes donc exposés à une production de contenus permanente, sans cesse croissante, à laquelle chacun doit trouver comment s’adapter.

    Entre le FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) et la déconnexion, la majorité des Français oscille. Comme oscillent un certain nombre de médias d’information continue, tiraillés entre la tentation d’aller plus vite que les réseaux sociaux et celle de proposer de « l’analyse », du « décryptage », multipliant ad libitum le commentaire d’experts parfois improbables et valorisant la confrontation, le clash, le « parler vrai ».

    Est-ce la pauvreté du débat public qui tire ainsi l’information vers l’écume ou cette information logorrhéique qui tire le débat public vers le bas ?

    Toujours dans la récente étude de la Fondation Jean-Jaurès, la première raison évoquée par les Français tentés par la stratégie du repli est la trop grande agressivité du débat public. Le buzz et le clash font indéniablement recette en termes d’audience, mais lassent une part grandissante de la population. Les controverses les plus vénielles comme les plus essentielles semblent se transformer en une lutte à mort, quand elles n’évoluent pas tout simplement dans des univers parallèles, les algorithmes enfermant progressivement chacun dans des bulles de confirmation, sans plus d’autres dialogues contradictoires.

    La question de la confiance et de la proximité

    La « twiterrisation » de l’information, l’organisation de la conflictualité en continu génère de l’audience, de la reprise, de la visibilité mais son omniprésence fatigue. Abondamment repris par les journalistes, les politiques et les leaders d’opinion, le réseau à l’oiseau bleu n’est pourtant utilisé régulièrement que par moins d’un Français sur dix.

    Ce « microcosme numérique » ne reflète pas l’opinion publique. Cette dernière, à l’inverse, prise la proximité. Dans la hiérarchie de la confiance au sein de notre sondage, la presse quotidienne régionale arrive ainsi en tête des médias jugés « dignes de confiance » (67 %), devant la radio (64 %) et avant la presse nationale (58 %), la télévision généraliste (52 %), les chaînes d’information en continu (49 %) et les réseaux sociaux (26 %) (graphique 19). Elle s’impose comme la valeur sûre pour accéder à une information de qualité et faire vivre le débat local.

    Si le marché français de la publicité digitale a frôlé les 8 milliards d’euros en 2021, l’immense majorité de ce chiffre d’affaires (environ 85 %) va aux GAFAM. Ceux-ci rémunèrent désormais mieux les éditeurs dont ils utilisent les contenus, mais cela ne saurait suffire à en garantir la gratuité intégrale. Les plateformes numériques ont, cependant, favorisé la culture de l’abonnement. La vraie révolution du modèle économique de nombreux médias, notamment de la presse quotidienne, est là : l’investissement dans la qualité des contenus doit aujourd’hui et demain se financer par l’abonnement numérique. À l’instar des grands quotidiens américains (New York Times en tête), les grands titres français misent sur la qualité journalistique et la diversité de leurs contenus pour séduire de nouvelles audiences, payantes.

    La chose peut sembler paradoxale : abreuvé de contenus gratuits en continu, un nombre croissant de Français fait le choix de l’abonnement payant. C’est à la fois une manière de personnaliser sa « consommation » de média et de constituer une sorte de « safe space », un espace informationnel à l’intérieur duquel on est en confiance. Cet espace de confiance peut, bien sûr, être un « entre-soi », structuré autour d’affinités d’opinion, voire militant. Il y a toujours eu des médias typés de droite ou de gauche. À l’heure de l’accélération et de la fragmentation que nous constatons dans tous les domaines, le risque existe, cependant, de voir certains de ces espaces affinitaires se transformer en camps retranchés. Là encore, l’exemple américain fait réfléchir. Celui de Fox News, bien sûr, dont on connaît le positionnement et le rôle politique.

    #Fatigue #Buzz #Tim_Hwang #Publicité #BVA #Etudes_comportementale

  • Why social media companies picked a very tricky time to start charging

    But now, Meta, parent of Facebook and Instagram, is the latest to try to change that dynamic. With its gargantuan ad business slipping lately, Meta has announced it will test a subscription service, charging $11.99 a month (or nearly $24 for both platforms) for access to certain advanced features and customer support, a verified-identity digital badge, and “extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you,” as Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it. This, of course, follows Elon Musk rolling out a paid version of its familiar verification checkmarks as part of the $8-a-month Twitter Blue service.

    This grasping for new revenue streams is understandable: Digital advertising has softened in general, and Apple’s introduction of a do-not-track option on iOS devices has kneecapped ad-dependent digital businesses. That’s helping inspire a spate of add-on fee experiments from multiple businesses: “Snap gives subscribers early access to new features, YouTube serves them fewer ads, and Discord provides more customization options for people’s chat channels,” Vox recently noted,

    But models that charge you nothing and instead charge advertisers for access to your attention have succeeded well beyond social media, from search giant Google to countless media sites and entertainment platforms and sponsor-funded apps. If anything, advertising is arguably more dominant than ever. Even Amazon and Walmart generate significant ad revenue—and Netflix, after years of resistance, has lately capitulated to an ad-driven tier.

    But that very saturation is surely part of what’s driving the hunt for subscription revenue. Tim Hwang, author of the book Subprime Attention Crisis (which argues that the Internet’s ad-driven ecosystem is far more rickety and vulnerable than it might seem, partly because digital advertising isn’t nearly as effective as claimed), was recently interviewed by New York Times columnist Ezra Klein on his eponymous podcast about the pros and cons of a less ad-dependent online media system. Hwang acknowledges the critique that subscription models can be a walled garden: “A world in which high-quality media sources are moving behind a paywall is one in which low-quality media sources remain out and widely available.” But he still argued for “normalizing subscription” as a means of forcing a “hard conversation” about how information is subsidized, monetized, and spread.

    #Publicité #Médias_sociaux #Tim_Hwang

  • Opinion | How the $500 Billion Attention Industry Really Works - The New York Times

    Un podcast du New York Times avec Tim Hwang.
    Tim parle très (très) vite, heureusement, il y a un transcript, et aussi la version française de son livre "Le grand Krach de l’attention’

    Tim Hwang is the former global public policy lead for A.I. and machine learning at Google and the author of the book “Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet.” Hwang’s central argument is that everything about the internet — from the emphasis data collection to the use of the “like” button to the fact that services like Google Search and Facebook are free — flows from its core business model. But that business model is also in crisis. The internet is degrading the very resource — our collective attention — on which its financial survival depends. The resulting “subprime attention crisis” threatens to upend the internet as we know it.

    So this conversation is about the economic logic that undergirds our entire experience of the internet, and how that logic is constantly warping, manipulating and shaping the most important resource we have — our attention. But it’s also about whether a very different kind of internet, built on a very different economic logic, is possible.

    #Tim_Hwang #Podcast

  • Vass Bednar: Digital ads are a desperate gamble in a fantasy economy

    Digital advertising brings in billions of dollars in revenue to Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in Canada, with Amazon.com Inc. also emerging as a significant third player, according to recent research from Carleton University’s global media and internet concentration project. Advertising on Google’s search engine and YouTube brought in an estimated $6.2 billion, or $162 per Canadian, in 2021. Meta earned just under $4 billion last year across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, claiming one-third of Canada’s online advertising market, and derives almost all of its revenue from such ads globally. Amazon, a more recent entrant, made an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue from advertising, or almost 10 per cent of all online advertising in Canada. Together, these three tech conglomerates accounted for around 90 per cent of the online advertising market and more than two-thirds of all ad money in Canada.

    The online advertising industry is clearly profitable for massive platforms. But we should not confuse its profitability with effectiveness. Platforms earn money when an ad is viewed or listened to by a captive consumer, but that digestion doesn’t guarantee a purchase will occur. Indeed, that elusive purchase is nothing more than a reverie, and we’re all crushing the Kool-Aid in believing it’s a sure thing.

    Other research demonstrates that micro-targeted digital ads simply don’t work. As former Google employee Tim Hwang said in his 2020 book Subprime Attention Crisis, ad tech could be the next internet bubble. Further, the returns on investment in digital marketing have been proven to be embarrassingly poor for the companies advertising. One study found that ad-tech middlemen are substantially enriched by the online advertising game, sucking up as much as 50 per cent of all online spending. Another study found that automated micro-targeting performed slightly worse than random guessing. Meanwhile, digital ads are often credited for purchases that would have been made anyway, making them “the most widely used shell game in business today,” writes Sinan Aral in The Hype Machine.

    Nonetheless, the ability to collect information about people as they prowl the internet predicates online giants’ ability to command advertising dollars for totally random results. That’s led to a company policy knife-fight between Apple Inc. and everyone else after the tech giant forced developers to obtain explicit consent from users. This has resulted in even less accurate micro-targeting — Facebook’s recent software update practically begs people to subject themselves to being tracked. Apple’s change means online advertising now generally costs more, translating into increased costs for small businesses hoping to reach new and relevant audiences online, on top of the digital fees extorted from developers on mobile application stores. All of this expenditure and effort hinges on the promise that advertising expenditure is richly rewarding, a necessary investment for e-commerce players.

    Maybe it is time we start seeing online ads for what they really are: a desperate gamble in a fantasy economy.

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité

  • The Madness of the Crowd

    Par Tim Hwang (mars 2017)

    As the Trump Administration enters its first hundred days, the 2016 election and its unexpected result remains a central topic of discussion among journalists, researchers, and the public at large.

    It is notable the degree to which Trump’s victory has propelled a broader, wholesale evaluation of the defects of the modern media ecosystem. Whether it is “fake news,” the influence of “filter bubbles,” or the online emergence of the “alt-right,” the internet has been cast as a familiar villain: enabling and empowering extreme views, and producing a “post-fact” society.

    This isn’t the first time that the internet has figured prominently in a presidential win. Among commentators on the left, the collective pessimism about the technological forces powering Trump’s 2016 victory are matched in mirror image by the collective optimism about the technological forces driving Obama’s 2008 victory. As Arianna Huffington put it simply then, “Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee.”

    But whereas Obama was seen as a sign that the new media ecosystem wrought by the internet was functioning beautifully (one commentator praised it as “a perfect medium for genuine grass-roots political movements”), the Trump win has been blamed on a media ecosystem in deep failure mode. We could chalk these accounts up to simple partisanship, but that would ignore a whole constellation of other incidents that should raise real concerns about the weaknesses of the public sphere that the contemporary internet has established.

    This troubled internet has been around for years. Fears about filter bubbles facilitating the rise of the alt-right can and should be linked to existing concerns about the forces producing insular, extreme communities like the ones driving the Gamergate controversy. Fears about the impotence of facts in political debate match existing frustrations about the inability for documentary evidence in police killings—widely distributed through social media—to produce real change. Similarly, fears about organized mobs of Trump supporters systematically silencing political opponents online are just the latest data point in a long-standing critique of the failure of social media platforms to halt harassment.

    One critical anchor point is the centrality of the wisdom of the crowd to the intellectual firmament of Web 2.0: the idea that the broad freedom to communicate enabled by the internet tends to produce beneficial outcomes for society. This position celebrated user-generated content, encouraged platforms for collective participation, and advocated the openness of data.

    Inspired by the success of projects like the open-source operating system Linux and the explosion of platforms like Wikipedia, a generation of internet commentators espoused the benefits of crowd-sourced problem-solving. Anthony D. Williams and Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics (2006) touted the economic potential of the crowd. Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody (2008) highlighted how open systems powered by volunteer contributions could create social change. Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks (2006) posited a cooperative form of socioeconomic production unleashed by the structure of the open web called “commons-based peer production.”

    Such notions inspired movements like “Gov 2.0” and projects like the Sunlight Foundation, which sought to publish government data in order to reduce corruption and enable the creation of valuable new services by third parties. It also inspired a range of citizen journalism projects, empowering a new fourth estate.

    Intelligence Failure
    The platforms inspired by the “wisdom of the crowd” represented an experiment. They tested the hypothesis that large groups of people can self-organize to produce knowledge effectively and ultimately arrive at positive outcomes.

    In recent years, however, a number of underlying assumptions in this framework have been challenged, as these platforms have increasingly produced outcomes quite opposite to what their designers had in mind. With the benefit of hindsight, we can start to diagnose why. In particular, there have been four major “divergences” between how the vision of the wisdom of the crowd optimistically predicted people would act online and how they actually behaved.

    First, the wisdom of the crowd assumes that each member of the crowd will sift through information to make independent observations and contributions. If not, it hopes that at least a majority will, such that a competitive marketplace of ideas will be able to arrive at the best result.

    Second, collective intelligence requires aggregating many individual observations. To that end, it assumes a sufficient diversity of viewpoints. However, open platforms did not generate or actively cultivate this kind of diversity, instead more passively relying on the ostensible availability of these tools to all.

    Third, collective intelligence assumes that wrong information will be systematically weeded out as it conflicts with the mass of observations being made by others. Quite the opposite played out in practice, as it ended up being much easier to share information than to evaluate its accuracy. Hoaxes spread very effectively through the crowd, from bogus medical beliefs and conspiracy theories to faked celebrity deaths and clickbait headlines.

    Fourth, collective intelligence was assumed to be a vehicle for positive social change because broad participation would make wrongdoing more difficult to hide. Though this latter point turned out to be arguably true, transparency alone was not the powerful disinfectant it was assumed to be.

    The ability to capture police violence on smartphones did not result in increased convictions or changes to the underlying policies of law enforcement. The Edward Snowden revelations failed to produce substantial surveillance reform in the United States. The leak of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood recording failed to change the political momentum of the 2016 election. And so on. As Aaron Swartz warned us in 2009, “reality doesn’t live in the databases.”

    Ultimately, the aspirations of collective intelligence underlying a generation of online platforms proved far more narrow and limited in practice. The wisdom of the crowd turned out to be susceptible to the influence of recommendation algorithms, the designs of bad actors, in-built biases of users, and the strength of incumbent institutions, among other forces.

    The resulting ecosystem feels deeply out of control. The promise of a collective search for the truth gave way to a pernicious ecosystem of fake news. The promise of a broad participatory culture gave way to campaigns of harassment and atomized, deeply insular communities. The promise of greater public accountability gave way to waves of outrage with little real change. Trump 2016 and Obama 2008 are through-the-looking-glass versions of one another, with the benefits from one era giving rise to the failures of the next.

    To the extent that the vision of the wisdom of the crowd was naive, it was naive because it assumed that the internet was a spontaneous reactor for a certain kind of collective behavior. It mistook what should have been an agenda, a ongoing program for the design of the web, for the way things already were. It assumed users had the time and education to contribute and evaluate scads of information. It assumed a level of class, race, and gender diversity in online participation that never materialized. It assumed a gentility of collaboration and discussion among people that only ever existed in certain contexts. It assumed that the simple revelation of facts would produce social change.

    In short, the wisdom of the crowd didn’t describe where we were, so much as paint a picture of where we should have been going.

    The vision of collective participation embedded in the idea of the wisdom of the crowd rests on the belief in the unique potential of the web and what it might achieve. Even as the technology evolves, that vision—and a renewed defense of it—must guide us as we enter the next decade.

    #Tim_Hwang #Mythes_internet #Sagesse_des_foules #Intelligence_collective

  • ’The third era of Zuck’: how the CEO went from hero to humiliation | Mark Zuckerberg | The Guardian

    The exercise is practically an American tradition – executives from airlines, banks, credit agencies and tobacco companies have all been there. But for Zuckerberg, a CEO whose personal image is inextricable from that of the company he founded, it is symbolic of his loss of control of the narrative.

    “We now are entering what I would call the third era of Zuck,” said Tim Hwang, who founded the California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg, a journal of academic essays on the “visual culture of Mark Zuckerberg”. Hwang sees Zuckerberg as a sort of techie Madonna, cycling through personas as he matures, both shaping and reflecting the culture.

    First there was Zuck the “plucky in the college dorm room hacker guy”, said Hwang, who is also director of the Harvard-MIT ethics and governance of AI initiative. Then came “Zuck as world leader” – a period that saw the CEO travelling the world, meeting with elected leaders, occasionally donning a suit and speaking authoritatively about his global ambitions and social values. Zuckerberg and his public relations team successfully exploited Facebook’s signature blurring of the lines between the personal, political and commercial to create “Mark Zuckerberg”: the responsible boss, good husband, loving father, daring philanthropist and credible world leader.

    Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, with their daughters in Palo Alto, California. Photograph: Charles Ommanney/AP

    Hwang calls this new era Zuckerberg’s “in the wilderness phase”. “This is one of those moments where we’re really fascinated because this huge PR machine has sort of cracked and we can see through, and what we can see is someone way over his head,” he said.

    #Mark_Zuckerberg #Tim_Hwang

  • La Bulle et la Fête - Etourisme.info

    Librement romancé et inspiré par « Le grand krach de l’attention – la publicité une bombe au cœur de l’Internet » de Tim Hwang, écrivain, avocat et chercheur sur l’impact politique des technologies. Toute ressemblance avec des personnages existants serait purement fortuite (ou pas).

    Cédric Chabricole était la nouvelle recrue dans la rédaction. Il n’en menait pas large dans le couloir étroit qui le dirigeait tout droit vers le bureau du rédacteur en chef. On pouvait lire « JLB » en lettres capitales, imposantes et dorées sur la porte capitonnée dont l’aspect feutré jurait avec le reste de l’open space central composé de bric et de broc. Avec le succès exponentiel de la jeune entreprise, l’ameublement ne suivait pas le recrutement frénétique des auteurs pour assouvir l’insatiabilité productiviste de JLB. « Un article par jour ou rien ! » C’est le mantra que le rédacteur en chef prononçait tous les matins en sortant de l’ascenseur, d’une voix tonitruante qui faisait sursauter les vaillantes équipes en place dès potron-minet ; elles n’en pouvaient plus de ce rythme de publication insoutenable, mais le capitaine du navire tenait bon. Il faut dire qu’il avait la pression des actionnaires depuis que l’association etourisme.info avait été rachetée par les P&P, de riches canadiens excentriques dont on ne connaissait que les initiales de leur prénom et leur avatar dans le métavers, pour en faire un média international qui dépasserait les frontières francophones.

    « J’ai lu votre papier et je suis assez circonspect. J’ai les Canadiens qui me collent aux basques chaque année lors du Conseil d’Administration de clôture des comptes. Ils m’attendent sur les taux de clics heureusement toujours en hausse grâce à François notre webmarketeur senior qui optimise notre budget publicitaire on-line comme un basque, en obtenant des taux d’engagement ha-llu-ci-nants ! ».

    François avait été engagé comme community manager puis son poste avait évolué comme gestionnaire de campagnes depuis que le classement des destinations sur les réseaux sociaux était exactement proportionnel à celui des organismes qui investissaient le plus en publicité. Par ailleurs, les influenceurs avaient supplanté les community managers dans l’animation des communautés. Un comble puisque ces mêmes community managers avaient porté aux nues les influenceurs à grandes embardées de programmes d’ambassadeurs et autres rencontres entre Instagrammeurs, sans même se douter qu’ils étaient en train de scier la branche sur laquelle ils étaient assis. On enseignait même l’influence à l’Université avec des listes d’attentes interminables pour intégrer le cursus de formation vers un nouveau métier qui faisait rêver les jeunes bien plus que boulanger, pompier, médecin et même cuisinier dans la restauration. Ce qui n’était pas pour faciliter la pénurie de main d’œuvre dans l’industrie touristique.

    — Je vois que vous êtes réceptif, nous allons pouvoir rentrer dans le vif du sujet. Donc mon chez Chabricole, dans votre papier, vous insinuez que nous vivons dans une utopie et vous prétendez que la bulle de la publicité en ligne est prête à exploser alors que le marché a atteint 427 milliards de dollars ! Pour étayer votre thèse, vous faîtes en plus un parallèle avec les marchés financiers. Là sincèrement j’ai du mal à suivre ! Interrogea-t-il d’un air circonspect.

    -- Tout à fait répondit Cédric. Le marché de la publicité en ligne s’est largement inspiré de celui des salles de marché. Par exemple, on achète des publicités programmatiques aux enchères en quelques clics, à une vitesse vertigineuse l’inventaire publicitaire et la position des annonces sont mis à jour grâce à de nombreux algorithmes. On vend de l’espace publicitaire comme on vend des confits de canards ! Dit autrement, on regroupe des moments d’attention en actifs liquides distincts qui sont achetés et vendus sans difficultés sur un marché mondial, jour et nuit.

    — Je poursuivrais sur ce point Monsieur Bourrin, je veux dire Jean-Luc, se reprit rapidement Cédric. Google et Meta concentrent la majorité des budgets d’annonceurs et leur chiffre d’affaires provient à 90% de la publicité. Ainsi l’apparente gratuité des services pour l’utilisateur est en réalité financée par les annonceurs ! De plus, ces plateformes reversent très peu d’imposition dans le système fiscal des pays depuis lesquels ils dégagent de colossaux bénéfices, surpassant même le PIB de tout un pays. Surtout, ils sont à la fois juges et parties. Google fournit même pernicieusement Analytics, un logiciel d’analyse du trafic des sites Web, la firme maîtrise ainsi la chaîne de bout en bout depuis la gestion des annonces publicitaires (avec AdWords, AdSense) jusqu’aux résultats statistiques (Analytics). Enfin, je terminerais sur ce point : aucun organisme n’est habilité à vérifier quotidiennement la fiabilité des données. Quand bien même ce tiers existerait, privé ou public, on pourrait s’interroger sur sa propre légitimité puisque sa viabilité dépendrait de la pérennité du système dans lequel il s’inscrirait. CQFD ! Conclu-t-il avec l’assurance inébranlable d’un camelot.

    Des cris de plus en plus proches venaient distinctement perturber cette séquence mélancolique. Des pas de plus en plus pressés semblaient s’approcher quand soudain la porte s’ouvrit dans un vacarme retentissant. Lorsque François pénétra dans la pièce, il s’exclama :

    -- Bourrin, c’est la fin !

    -- La fin de quoi bon Dieu ? jura Jean-Luc avec inquiétude.

    -- Vous n’avez pas entendu les infos ? La bulle de la publicité en ligne a explosé ! Des lanceurs d’alertes ont tout balancé ! Un dossier long comme mon bras ! Tout le monde panique, Zuckerberg est parti se cacher dans le métavers, plus personne ne sait où il se trouve, c’est malin. Google annonce la fermeture de Adwords et de tous ces services relatifs à la publicité en ligne, c’est un cataclysme. J’en passe ! Mon job est foutu ! Je peux déjà mettre en vente mon appartement à Saint-Jean-de-Luz pour assurer mes arrières. Mais comment ? Si je ne peux plus faire de publicités en ligne, c’est inextricable !

    Pendant quelques minutes, le temps était comme suspendu. Plus personne n’osait prononcer un seul mot, même Ludovic avait décroché de son smartphone et semblait lui aussi happé par l’instant fatidique qui se jouait. Seul Pierre semblait complétement détaché de la scène, il avait déjà anticipé et misé sur d’autres leviers de visibilité que la publicité en ligne.

    #Tim_Hwang #Krach_attention

  • La publicité programmatique et le spectre de la crise - Nonfiction.fr le portail des livres et des idées

    Cet ancien de chez Google alerte sur les proportions inédites de la « bulle de marché » de la publicité programmatique, tout en établissant un parallèle avec la crise des subprimes de 2008.

    La publicité en ligne est en butte à bien des critiques : incitations consuméristes, intrusions dans la vie privée, manipulation des comportements, etc. Toutefois, la performance même de ce procédé n’est jamais remise en cause. À l’inverse, on présuppose à la publicité en ligne — a fortiori la publicité personnalisée, qui cible les consommateurs grâce à des algorithmes — une sinistre efficacité qui, précisément, en amplifierait les méfaits.

    Tim Hwang, avocat, chercheur et anciennement responsable des politiques publiques de l’intelligence artificielle chez Google, déconstruit le mythe des algorithmes de ciblage ultraperformants et de l’économie pérenne et florissante que serait celle de la publicité en ligne. Il dévoile, à rebours de cet imaginaire, une conjoncture gangrénée par les pratiques spéculatives et les manipulations des grandes places de marché publicitaires qui maintiennent à flot un secteur profondément défaillant.

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité #Programmatique

  • Aides aux entreprises, publicité numérique, Etat social... Nos trois conseils lecture du mois | Alternatives Economiques
    Le grand Krach de l’Attention par Tim Hwang

    2/ Dans les coulisses du web : Big seller is watching you

    Nos économies contemporaines sont-elles devenues aussi dépendantes de la publicité numérique que du pétrole ? En dressant ce parallèle, Tim Hwang nous montre l’ampleur de ce qui dépend aujourd’hui de la publicité personnalisée en ligne : nos mails, la navigation, les réseaux sociaux, la recherche (Google), etc.

    L’ensemble de ces services étant financé par la publicité personnalisée, ou plus précisément programmatique, une technologie stratégique de mise aux enchères des audiences en temps réel. Avocat et chercheur, l’auteur en interroge l’efficacité. Et si les promesses de ce ciblage publicitaire prétendument ultraprécis étaient largement exagérées ?

    Dans un style très accessible, Tim Hwang décrit l’opacité des entreprises de ce secteur, le manque de contrôle et se demande même si nous ne sommes pas en pleine bulle spéculative. Ayant travaillé chez Google, il a le mérite d’interroger ce qui ne l’est pas souvent, et ce avec des arguments techniques.

    Justin Délepine

    Le grand krach de l’attention. La publicité, une bombe au cœur de l’Internet, par Tim Hwang C&F éditions, 2022, 176 p., 22 €.


    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité

  • After Sheryl Sandberg’s departure, how long does Facebook have left? - New Statesman

    The scrappy start-up had morphed into a global advertising behemoth with tens of thousands of employees but its size, reach and revenues failed to protect it from the shifting sands of digital culture and the perils of the attention economy. Since the start of this year, Facebook’s market capitalisation has fallen by 43 per cent.

    The received wisdom is that TikTok is to blame for Facebook’s woes. While Zuckerberg and Sandberg controversially secured permission to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively, TikTok has remained firmly beyond their grasp. Although Zuckerberg has launched a copycat feature called Reels, it is failing to drive as much revenue as his other products.

    Facebook’s problems, however, may reflect a deeper trend within the advertising ecosystem. In Subprime Attention Crisis, Tim Hwang argues that the effectiveness of online ads has been dramatically exaggerated by the American tech giants. As the inefficiency of their commercial offering has been exposed over time, says Hwang, Facebook and Google have been forced to litter their platforms with ever more ad units.

    They “force more and more ads into an experience, or into a social media channel, in order to make the same amount of money… and that has the perverse effect of squeezing people away from those platforms,” said the former Google employee in a New Statesman interview earlier this year. The tech giants’ solution to this challenge, Hwang believes, is to direct users to new platforms, before they become so saturated with advertising that they too become unusable.

    Beyond buying competitors, copying rivals, producing more products and lobbying for favourable regulations, there is another trick social media companies use to maintain growth expectations and market share. They build ever higher walls around their platforms.

    #Facebook #Tim_Hwang #Publicité

  • La publicité limite la grammaire des interactions sociales | Entre les lignes entre les mots

    La publicité, partie intégrande du cycle de la réalisation de la valeur et du fétichisme de la marchandise (pour utiliser des notions de la critique de l’économie politique) contribue à l’augmentation et au renouvellement – souhaitée par les entreprises – de besoins souvent artificiels. La logique publicitaire (une véritable pollution imposée aux consommateurs et consommatrices) au cœur du fonctionnement de l’internet me semble hautement critiquable. Cet outil relevant du commun, son éventuellement financement – comme son fonctionnement – ne peux relever de la sphère privative lucrative.

    Cela étant précisé, cet ouvrage contribue à la compréhension de l’« économie de l’attention » et de mécanismes publicitaire propres au fonctionnement de l’internet, « La publicité numérique est le cœur funeste qui fait vivre l’internet ».

    Tim Hwang discute donc du jargon de la publicité programmatique, de temps réel, de plates-formes logicielles, de monétisation par la vente de l’attention des consommateurs et consommatrices, de risques systémiques, des ressemblances entre les marchés de la publicité programmatique et les marchés financiers, des enchères publicitaires, des algorithmes, « La technologie permet de jouer le jeu, mais ne dicte pas les règles du jeu », d’attention marchandisée, « Le concept amorphe, informe, de l’attention est désormais un ensemble d’éléments comparables et distinguables qui peuvent être captés, évaluées et vendus », de standardisation, de spéculation, de marchandises « abstraites », d’opacité, d’infrastructure de surveillance, de déferlement de données, de trading algorithmique, de dark pools, de nouveaux intermédiaires, de détermination des prix, de dépendance à l’égard des plateformes dominantes, d’ergonomie souterraine, de qualité, de la perte d’« efficacité » des bannières, de bloqueurs de publicité, de visibilité et d’invisibilité, « Un nombre stupéfiant des ces annonces n’est jamais vu par qui que ce soit »…

    J’ai notamment apprécié les passages sur la fraude publicitaire, la fraude au clic, « publicités… vues uniquement par des robots ou par des humains dont le travail consiste à cliquer dessus », l’usurpation de domaines, le développement d’entreprises criminelles… L’auteur interroge l’attention réelle, d’autant que se développe « le spectre du désintérêt du public pour la publicité en ligne ».

    Je ne reviens pas sur mes remarques antérieures. J’ajoute cependant que contrairement à l’auteur, il me semble possible d’aborder le fonctionnement de l’internet sans aucune publicité. La gratuité réelle pour les utilisateurs et utilisatrices peut être construite par une prise en charge collective de ce bien commun que devrait être l’internet.

    Il convient donc à la fois de combattre la place des Gafam, la dictature des algorithmes (masquant des choix et des programmations par des individus), la pollution publicitaire et la marchandisation du monde.

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité #Economie_attention

  • Usbek & Rica - Tech Paf - La publicité ciblée n’est-elle qu’une arnaque ?

    Dans son récent livre Le grand krach de l’attention, le chercheur américain Tim Hwang, passé par Google et IBM, démontre que le marché de la publicité a tout d’une bulle spéculative sur le point d’exploser… Retour sur les raisons de l’inefficacité de ces pubs « personnalisées ». Une chronique Tech Paf à retrouver tous les lundis dans la matinale de Radio Nova.

    #Tim_Hwang #Chronique_radio

  • Usbek & Rica - « Le business de la pub en ligne est bâti sur une fiction : son efficacité »

    ARCHIVE – Dans son livre Subprime Attention Crisis (FSG Originals, 2020), le chercheur américain Tim Hwang, passé par Google et IBM, et aujourd’hui pensionnaire de l’université de Georgetown, enquête sur le marché de la publicité en ligne. Sa conclusion : la pub ciblée ne fonctionne pas et ce secteur d’activité, qui draine des sommes vertigineuses, a tout d’une bulle spéculative, prête à exploser.

    À l’occasion de la parution en français de cet ouvrage (Le grand krach de l’attention, C&F éditions, 2022), nous publions ici l’entretien que Tim Hwang nous avait accordé au printemps 2021, dans le cadre du dossier de notre magazine consacré au futur de la pub.

    Vous comparez le marché de la publicité en ligne à la bulle des subprimes qui a précédé la crise financière de 2008. Quels sont les points communs entre ces deux marchés  ?

    Un très grand nombre d’études montrent que les retours sur investissement de la publicité en ligne sont anémiques ou carrément négatifs. Et pourtant, l’argent continue d’affluer. Il y a un effet de mode, de mimétisme, l’idée que si tout le monde met de l’argent dans la publicité en ligne c’est bien que cela doit marcher. Mais je formule effectivement une autre hypothèse qui renvoie à la bulle des subprimes. Dans les années 1980 et 1990, de nombreuses économies avaient des problèmes et, dans les années 2000, les investisseurs ont cherché des placements sûrs. Une ruée s’est alors opérée vers les bons du Trésor américain dont le prix, progressivement, a augmenté. Il a fallu trouver autre chose, en l’espèce les hypothèques. Et la demande a été si forte que des hypothèques de moins en moins solides ont été mises sur le marché, adossées à des crédits accordés à des foyers peu ou pas solvables. Ainsi a débuté la crise des subprimes. Un phénomène similaire est aujourd’hui à l’œuvre avec la pub en ligne. Tout le marché de la publicité se redirige vers Internet, la demande est extrêmement forte et on commercialise des produits d’une qualité de plus en plus médiocre. Nous faisons face à une bulle spéculative, une distorsion entre le prix de la publicité en ligne, qui ne cesse de grimper, et sa valeur réelle.

    La publicité est au cœur du modèle économique d’Internet. C’est même son « péché originel » selon la formule du chercheur et activiste Ethan Zuckerman. Est-il possible de rompre avec ce modèle  ?

    Même si Facebook ou Google – les deux plus gros vendeurs de pub d’Internet – semblent inarrêtables, il ne faut pas oublier que ces entreprises sont jeunes et qu’Internet a déjà changé à de multiples reprises, et de manière radicale, au cours des dernières décennies. J’ai des amis qui sont des « anarchistes de la pub », qui voudraient s’en débarrasser totalement… Je suis plus modéré. La publicité est utile pour rendre certains services gratuits, je pense en particulier aux moteurs de recherche. Simplement, la pub ne doit pas être l’alpha et l’oméga du Web. Par exemple, les États pourraient subventionner l’accès à certains services essentiels aujourd’hui financés par la pub. Nous sommes à un tournant, un moment de renégociation du contrat social avec les grandes entreprises de la tech. Il ne faut donc ignorer aucune piste.

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité #Economie_attention

  • The biggest tech trends of 2022, according to experts

    La technologie comme nouvelle deité dans l’ère post-covid, pré-guerre... Pray for NFT !

    Tim Hwang, author of Subprime Attention Crisis (Hwang is also editor of The California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg.)
    As the world becomes ever more uncertain in 2022, technology will increasingly become the locus of fantasy, escapism, and fin de siècle excess. That means two trends are set to expand in the coming year. First, technology as cult infrastructure: We’ll see things like the tungsten cube [collector NFTs], religiously skinned tokenization [such as GAWDS.xyz’s deity NFTs], and divinatory platformization [such as the C0-Star personalized astrology app] make a major leap in popularity and complexity. Second, technology fundamentalism. After a period of apology and attempted cooperation with policymakers and civil society, I anticipate that tech leaders will harden in their visions for society and their diagnoses of its problems, becoming unwilling to compromise on increasingly radical plans to remake life after COVID.

    #Tim_Hwang #Prédictions

  • Subprime Attention crisis : la publicité ciblée ne fonctionne pas

    Dans son livre Le grand krach de l’attention, Tim Hwang explique que la publicité ciblée, le moteur économique d’une grande partie du web, est survalorisée et à l’origine d’une bulle financière qui pourrait mettre en péril l’économie. Interview.

    Cette interview a initialement été publiée le 21 octobre 2020, date de la publication de Subprime Attention Crisis, puis mise à jour le 25 février 2022 à l’occasion de la publication de sa version française Le grand krach de l’attention (C&F Éditions).

    #Tim_Hwang #Attention #Publicité

  • Prologue de Tim Hwang à son livre : Le grand krach de l’attention | Entre les lignes entre les mots

    Premier jour de Programmatic i/o, la « plus grande conférence mondiale de l’écosystème du marketing data-driven ». Les participants s’entassent au sous-sol de l’hôtel

    Marriott Marquis de San Francisco afin d’assister à des présentations sur les aspects les plus subtils de la publicité en ligne. Les sessions promettent d’explorer des thèmes tels que « les meilleures pratiques pour une mesure avancée des audiences de la télévision » ou « l’avenir de la publicité vidéo ». Les stands de fournisseurs envahissent les lieux et vendent un nombre incalculable de choses, depuis les marchés d’échange de données destinées au ciblage publicitaire jusqu’aux plateformes d’automatisation de la création de contenus publicitaires. Le sac que j’ai reçu à l’entrée se remplit de brochures promettant « la monétisation des données grâce à une technologie imbattable » et des produits qui permettent « l’idéation, la production et l’approbation de vos contenus de marque […] rationalisés avec une efficacité sans précédent ».

    La publicité numérique est le cœur funeste qui fait vivre l’internet. Régi par les données et automatisé à l’extrême, cet écosystème mis à l’honneur par des conférences comme Programmatic i/o est la machine à sous qui a nourri l’ascension fulgurante des grandes sociétés technologiques et des créateurs de contenus les plus en vue de notre époque.

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité #Prologue

  • 5 Things Service-Driven Businesses Can Do To Impress Clients

    1. Change up your ad game.

    Advertising is an essential component of almost all business growth strategies. But even though the industry has been around for a long time, the practices companies use rarely keep up with the latest cultural and psychosocial developments. What worked in advertising five years ago may work half as well today. And yet, many companies still aren’t adapting their methods …

    As former Google policy director and book author, Tim Hwang, told TechCrunch in 2020, marketers are being fooled by programmatic advertising and misleading measurement systems, high costs and blatant advertising fraud created by fake clicks. He even goes as far as stating that the online ad industry is in need of a “controlled demolition.”

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité #Publicité_programmatique

  • Ouvrage : Nouveauté : Le grand krach de l’attention – Tim Hwang – Gemdev

    Nouveauté : Le grand krach de l’attention – Tim Hwang

    Bonjour, J’ai le plaisir de vous présenter la première publication 2022 de C&F éditions. Une traduction d’un petit ouvrage qui a connu un véritable succès aux États-Unis, et qui vient bousculer de nombreux mythes concernant la publicité sur Internet. Le grand krach de l’attention. La publicité, une bombe au cœur de l’internet
    Tim Hwang
    Traduit de l’anglais (États-Unis) par Anne Lemoine
    Et si la publicité personnalisée promue par les géants du web n’était qu’un mirage ? Tim Hwang déconstruit le mythe promis aux annonceurs d’un accès sur mesure à chaque utilisateur ou utilisatrice de l’internet. Il dévoile, ce faisant, les pratiques spéculatives et les manipulations des grandes places de marché publicitaires, intimement liées aux monopoles du web. Que se passera-t-il quand ce mythe s’écroulera ? Quelles seront les conséquences de cet effondrement sur l’ensemble de l’économie de l’internet ? Et au-delà ? Tim Hwang s’attache à montrer les similitudes entre le risque induit par la spéculation publicitaire sur internet et ce qui s’est passé dans le secteur de la finance en 2008. Un ouvrage éclairant et pédagogique sur les mécanismes de la spéculation dans la finance comme sur l’internet. « Espérons que le livre de Tim Hwang parviendra à faire éclater la bulle spéculative du système publicitaire de l’internet qui profite à si peu. »

    Tim Hwang est écrivain, avocat et chercheur sur l’impact politique des technologies. Il a été responsable des politiques publiques de l’intelligence artificielles chez Google. Surnommé « l’homme le plus occupé d’internet » par la revue Forbes, Tim Hwang s’intéresse à l’avenir de l’économie de l’attention et à la géopolitique du numérique. Il est chercheur associé au Center for Security and Emerging Technology de l’université de Georgetown qui produit des rapports sur l’impact mondial de l’intelligence artificielle. Il était auparavant directeur du think-tank philanthropique Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI initiative qui émet des propositions afin que les projets d’intelligence artificielle soient bien orientés dans l’intérêt public.


  • The new dotcom crash: collapsing ad markets threaten disaster for Big Tech - New Statesman

    Illustration by Anna Higgie

    On Thursday 3 February Meta Platforms, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, lost more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in market value — the largest one-day drop in history. Mark Zuckerberg, whose personal wealth fell by more than $30bn in a single day, appeared red-eyed and shaken (he claimed to have scratched his cornea) in a call with employees, whom he urged to concentrate on new products.

    The plunge was caused by an earnings report in which Facebook acknowledged that its daily users had begun to decline. Zuckerberg’s story is that this doesn’t matter in the long run, because Meta will replace the social media platforms of today with the internet of tomorrow: the metaverse. But for the technology author and researcher Tim Hwang, it points to a deeper crisis in the way internet companies make money — one that could have serious implications not just for Facebook, but for all of the tech giants and for the financial markets that have ballooned on their progress for more than a decade.

    It quickly became apparent, however, that the web would only grow at massive, world-changing speed if websites were free to use — and that the only people who were going to pay for that growth would be advertisers. This gave Google a problem to solve: an individual website could simply put a car ad on a page about cars, as newspapers and magazines had done for centuries. By 2005, however, Google was serving more than 100 billion searches a year on more than 64 million websites. The question was, “How do you deliver a relevant ad to someone, when on a given day someone might search for anything on Google?”

    When Facebook arrived in the mid-Noughties it had a similar problem, says Hwang. “How do you deliver millions, if not billions, of ads to lots and lots of different people looking for different things on the web?”

    Much has been written about the incentives this system has created for disinformation, populism and polarisation. For Hwang, however, the real question is: “What if this waterfall of money that we’ve discovered on the internet is actually not sustainable?”

    Hwang maintains there are good reasons to suspect that it isn’t. “The closer that you look at it, the more it appears that there’s large segments of this marketplace which are faulty — in effect, kind of a scam.”

    Swathes of internet traffic are useless to advertisers. More than a third of web-page views are from machines, and roughly a third of human web traffic is ad-free, thanks to ad blocking. The criteria for what the industry considers an “impression” are fantastically accommodating — an ad is considered viewable if half of it has been on screen for one second — but studies suggest that less than half of ads meet them.

    “We’ve been sold a vision,” Hwang says, “for a very long time that this system, on a fundamental level, really works.” But the effectiveness of programmatic advertising, and the amount advertisers will pay for an impression or a click, has been falling, forcing Big Tech to undermine its own products as they “force more and more ads into an experience, or into a social media channel, in order to make the same amount of money… and that has the perverse effect of squeezing people away from those platforms”.

    For Hwang, the real danger of these policies is not that they will stop ads from working, but that companies will lose access to tracking data “and it turns out the ads are pretty much as effective as they always were”. If Big Tech forfeits its powers to track and target, what should companies do — lose access to hundreds of millions of affluent EU consumers, or admit that the technology behind the multi-trillion-dollar industry of surveillance capitalism is about as effective as an ad in the local paper? “That,” Hwang said, “might really pop the bubble.”

    A second dotcom crash would not be confined to a handful of companies. Big Tech has been the driving force behind the longest bull run in history, a ten-year boom in innovation. By 2020 the five largest companies in the US were tech companies — Facebook, Apple, Tesla, Amazon and Microsoft — and accounted for 37 per cent of stock market returns.

    Big Tech’s rising tide has not only created a long boom in stocks but innovation across the global economy. “The advertising ecosystem has ended up subsidising a lot of things that we don’t really think about as connected,” from the growing AI industry to entertainment and journalism. “We have delegated so much basic R&D to these companies. For example, the progress of self-driving cars is almost entirely funded through advertising.”

    Forget the dotcom bubble. Could this be as big as the 2008 financial crash? Hwang accepts that Big Tech, inflated as it is, doesn’t compare in size to the mortgage market that brought down the global economy 14 years ago. But he feels the comparison is still valid: something obscure and complicated is about to become systemically important. In 2008, he says, “you had this financial asset… that we didn’t really think much about… but as soon as that market downturns it had these ripple effects throughout the economy”.

    #Tim_Hwang #Publicité