Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet

Tim Hwang. FSG Originals x Logic, $15 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-53865-1
Hwang, a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, rebukes the current economic model of the internet in his bracing debut. Claiming that programmatic digital advertising (“the money machine that has fueled the meteoric rise of the most prominent tech giants and content creators of the modern era”) is built on fraudulent metrics, Hwang compares the current situation to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis and the 1929 stock market crash. Marketing agencies and companies such as Facebook and Google, which make their profits on ad sales, have “systemic incentives to oversell the value and price of advertising inventory,” Hwang writes. He notes that younger (and more valuable) demographic groups are unlikely to click on ads, and describes how techniques such as “click farming” and “domain spoofing” exploit ad buyers. In addition to a familiar call for tighter industry regulation, Hwang makes the more radical argument that “a well-considered and structured implosion” of the programmatic advertising model would pave the way for a better internet that’s not funded by the commodification of user attention. Using apt analogies and accessible terminology, Hwang makes a persuasive case that the internet bubble is bound to burst. This wake-up call rings loud and clear. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/16/2020
Release date: 10/13/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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