Privacy is now a microtransaction

On the heels of Google getting into interest-based advertising, it occurs to me that privacy is a microtransaction.

Look, for the web here’s the deal. Web publishers need to generate revenue for their services. As a consumer here are your three options. You can pay with:

  • Attention: Ads are getting bigger and more interruptive (interstitials!) in order to get your attention and preserve big CPMs. If you don’t mind a future where the rich media ads drip all over the page and you’re clicking through “watch this ad while the article you want loads” gateways, then continue to pay with attention.
  • Real dollars: Whether it’s subscription or microtransaction you can reach into your wallet and actually contribute your own dollars to the cause.
  • Privacy: Give up some data about yourself to lead to better ads targeting. This means ads can be effective without being interruptive. Higher RPMs for text ads as opposed to needing to give up the homepage to a huge Wendy’s Bacon skin.

People who want to remain fully anonymous on the web – that’s no problem, just reach into your wallet and pay directly. Or get ready for a noisy webpage. I’ll trade some knowledge about what interests me for an enhanced web experience.

One thought on “Privacy is now a microtransaction

  1. Nice, Hunter–elegant and thought-provoking analysis. Seems like there’s a zero-sum relationship among the three currencies. As a user, you can hang on to two of them, but you’re going to have to cough up the third (or at least some measure of it) to get what you want. But the crudity of personalization systems mean that it’s still really difficult to arrange “attention transactions” that create value for both parties. (That was something AttentionTrust hoped to address, all those years ago.)

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