What Is to Be Done About the Ad-Based Internet economy?



This is a conversation I would like to see more people in. Top of mind right now are the the crowd behind fixadtech as they have filed GDPR complaints about Real-Time Bidding (RTB) in the online advertising industry were filed today with Data Protection Authorities in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. One of the people driving it, Dr. Johnny Ryan testified today at the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Understanding the Digital Advertising Ecosystem and the Impact of Data Privacy and Competition Policy.

But more than the opposition to it, I would like to know what alternative framings and approaches people are experimenting with. Especially ones that scale. During a recent event I heard about through @harryhalpin - I remember him making a point about the money being behind freedom/privacy enhancing solutions. And that building alliances that allow you to reach scale is crucial, and that this can often come from the very actors that are considered problematic. At the same event I came across Least authority which seems to have an interesting model that explores how to collect as little private data as possible by design/default in their software solutions. Have to dig up my exact notes, but that was what I took away from it.

Anyone looking at alternatives that we know of?


To be a bit polemic here: I don’t think we need more news. News is what got it into the current mess. What we need is journalism, in the sense of researching, explaining, categorizing, reminding, and so on.

Alas, that is a lot of work, and the result is a lot of work to consume too - you have to read in-depth articles to fully grok a given topic, and given our increasingly complex world, things are only getting more complicated, not less.

The other side of the problem is time. We can only spend so much time per day consuming media. And while the global audience is pretty big, the “media consumption per day” is a finite resource. And journalism competes with music, games, movies, tv shows, books, theater, individual conversations & gossip, lack of time because people need to have three jobs, and so on.

And as now basically everyone can crank out content (watch me doing it right now, right here!), the competition for attention is getting even fiercer! Book authors not only compete with all the other media for attention, but they also compete with fanfiction, hobby authors, the giant backlog of already published books available for free on Project Gutenberg, and so on…

So even if you create top-notch content, entertainment, education or information, you need to get it out to people to see it. And then, yes, make money from it in some way too. And on both of these fronts, the competition is fierce.

Right now, the solution seems to be to make the content as tantalizing, attention-grabbing and as a result even controversial as possible, while at the same time attaching the ideal price tag of “free” to it.

The latter means that we finance through ads, and the former means that the content choices err on the side of flashy and/or controversial. And the ad-financing then reinforces the second choice, because more attention means more ad-money too!

Long story short: Ad-financing content is the worst! Really, it’s the original sin of the internet, and we should push it away as far as possible.


Good description of the problem. Citizenship takes work that imposes itself onto other activities we prefer to do. Not sure of the solution. “Education” is an easy answer, but my boomer generation was, and perhaps still is, the most educated generation in history - certainly in the US this is true, but I think also for a great deal of Europe - and I don’t see a lot of collective smarts or wisdom coming from my age group. Far from it.


Totally agreed! Also, since our data is going to the add industry anyways, why cant we at least have more sovereignty by pre-selecting who is receiving the data? I can still receive adds but at least I choose them.


Here, an extremely good example on how we are forced fed with ads by means that we as humanity are incapable of protecting ourself from.

This is why Internet for humans is needed.



At the Stockholm event, I was telling @erik_lonroth how the history of the Internet forked in 1993, when it was made legal to use it for commercial purposes. The initial hacker ethos stayed for quite a long time, and I myself saw the tail end of it in the early 2000s. But that decision was what flipped the whole thing. If I were @bruces or @Malka or one of them high-powered sci-fi writers I would be curious to write an alternative history where that was disallowed. I can hardly imagine capitalism in the 2020s without Internet ads!


it is at once amazing and terrifying what amount of money and resources got shifted around thanks to Internet ads. I daresay that some good came out of it too, but overall, we should abandon that model now :slight_smile:


Its clear that we need to discuss this topic, irl in depth some time.


happy to, where are you based, or where are you visiting in the foreseeable future? :slight_smile:


I’m planing a visit to Blivande in Stockholm in late june to meet and discuss ‘Building communities’ with @hugi and a few friends from my local community (a small town). Its an oportunity to at least meet if you are in Stockholm.


not quite, I’m Berlin based…


Maybe we could start with a scheduled community call on the topic? Who would be interested in participating? @JollyOrc and @erik_lonroth, could that work for you as a first / second step? @inge would you be up for joining as well?


I’m up for that!


Great! Which times usually work for you?


I work in a home office and am europe-based, so anything that isn’t in the night can probably be accommodated, given enough heads-up.

Thursday and Friday this week are booked though.


love to take part! I’m Tbilisi-based, so that’s two hours ahead of Brussels. Flexible time and day wise, except for Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings.


Mornings for me are afternoons for you. Right now when it is 4 PM in Brussels it is 7 Am in California. That is pretty much the earliest realistic time for me on a given day. We tend to have other calls on Mondays and Tuesday so other days would be best.

Upcoming Community Call - "Any news @ ad-based economy?"

So lets start planning:

  1. What should be the specific topic of the call? My proposal: *What could be done about the Ad-based internet economy with emphasis on the news" or “Any news @ ad-based economy?” feel free to specify and propose your own spin on it.
  2. Who is free when? Fill out the doodle doc here: https://doodle.com/poll/6q3zg9c34hstu6cu
  3. Who would be up to/who would you like to take the topical lead during the call?

Also, see this post for general planning for community calls:

looking forward to talking to you :slight_smile:


@inge thank you so much for filling out the google form already, but when I checked it out I recognized that I set it up wrong. The time slots were supposed to be 1 hour slots between 16:00 and 19:00. Here is the updated link: https://doodle.com/poll/6q3zg9c34hstu6cu I will also change it in the original post. If you could input your times again, that would be amazing!


Done :slight_smile: