/ Targeted Advertising


I'm not sure I believe in decent ads. When AdBlock Plus made peace with digital advertisers, I went in search of other adblocking software. I landed with a Pi-Hole on my network and uBlock Origin for my browsers.

I put a growing amount of effort into avoiding targeted ads and, I guess, ads in general. I'm skeptical that there's any good in trying to get people to click an ad or buy something. At the same time I want to support projects that are doing good work. When I can, I subscribe or buy something from their store, but when it comes down to supporting work I care about or rejecting surveillance capitalism, the latter wins out.

Noting this, it occurred to me that I have never once tried to subvert a podcast advertisement. I listen through the whole thing and sometimes I check out the product. My response when I see a targeted ad, especially from shitty giant corporations is to post some well researched article or twitter thread that drags them in the comments.

Recently, Wired posted this article about the data on podcast listeners being optimistic. One thing that podcasts have going for them is that most of their listeners are educated and affluent. People with cash to spare helps when huckstering a product.

I don't think the demographic information can be understated, but outside of that, I think the reason that podcast listeners are engaged is because they are being treated like people.

Compare for example the following:

A radio ad. It's typically decibels louder than the station you're listening to and the announcer is always predatorily yelling, "Your tax return is coming WHY DON'T YOU BUY SOME NEW S P E A K E R S!"

A Facebook or Google ad, both of which rely on gathering and studying as much data as possible about you. As we saw in the 2016 election, that kind of advertising is easily weaponized, and as we saw with the Snowden revelations, the State is happy to support these tech giants in their collection endeavors (provided they're plugged into the back end).

The end of the Wired article gets to what makes podcasts ads tolerable, and perhaps even worth listening to.

"The medium is inherently intimate, and easily creates a one-sided feeling of closeness between listener and host—the sense that the person talking into your ear on your commute is someone you know, whose product recommendations you trust, and whose work you want to support."

We should maintain critical distance from hosts. They're people doing a job. They're generally not people we know and likely we couldn't ask them for anything and expect filial bonds to urge them to help.

In regards to them reading ads, it feels human to human. The fact that podcasts don't have tons of user data makes them pretty opaque for marketers. Currently, advertisers have to treat us like people. It's so refreshing that I haven't sought a way to subvert them.