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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bizarre Ad Postings on SSRN

So I’ve noticed that lately, when I go to view articles on SSRN, I have been getting a little pane coming up on the right hand side of the screen that gives me advertising links.  These advertising links are ostensibly based on the content of the abstract/article that I’m looking at, to try to match my interests with companies that want to sell me something. 

Now, my gmail account does this, too, and I’ve found it a bit disturbing.  (Recently, I came across a student note discussing the privacy implications of this; interesting, although it seems to focus pretty heavily on the law firm context.  See Jason Miller, “Don’t Be Evil”: G-Mail’s Relevant Text Advertisements Violate Google’s Own Motto and Your E-mail Privacy Rights,” 33 Hofstra L. Rev. 1607 (2005)).

In any event, this SSRN advertising raised a couple questions:

First, while I don’t like it, I guess I understand why Google does this.  Money, profit.  After all, they need to finance that acquisition of YouTube somehow.  On the other hand, I thought SSRN was a non-profit.  Maybe I’m wrong on that.  (Correction: I am wrong on that.  'Tis a for-profit.  What that means is that I should be getting paid for every time I've mentioned them :).  Of course, regardless of its organization, SSRN may need ad revenue to cover expenses.  I certainy don’t begrudge anyone, but I guess I’m just asking.

Second, the technology is not quite where you would hope it would be.  It doesn’t match you up seamlessly with advertisers, at all.  Because I’m egotistical (Er, I guess I am an academic? And we’re never egotistical… ) I took a look at my own abstracts (shameless link) to see what was being flogged there.

No surprise, the abstract for the article dealing with the fortieth anniversary of Title VII had links to employment lawyers.  The abstract to my contracts-dinosaur piece featured a link to a game, “dinosaur,” which actually made me want to check it out.  Where it started getting weird were my two pieces on information markets, which featured ads dealing with Pilates.  Ooookay.  And then strangest of all was the satire about law review publishing, an amusing piece of fluff I wrote with my colleague Brannon Denning. Everything from psychiatrists to days spas.  I tell you.  Maybe we're beyond help...

Posted by Miriam Cherry on October 12, 2006 at 03:06 AM in Information and Technology | Permalink


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Well, that's Sunstein's concept of "The Daily Me" - a little cocoon I could shelter in, with regard to news, products, etc.

Now that you mention it, I think I am bothered by two separate things:

1) seeming loss of privacy (the commentator I quoted is very concerned about this point)


2) the fact that if you are going to invade my privacy to give me an ad, give me an on-point ad. Not one about pilates. :)

Posted by: Miriam Cherry | Oct 12, 2006 4:33:16 PM

I'm going to studiously ignore the SSRN component of this -- but it's interesting to me that you have such high expectations of relevance for Google's AdSense, Miriam. When I walk down city streets or turn on the TV, I see tons of ads that have nothing to do with me or my situation. So when I see AdSense banners matched up to Web content with some degree of connection, I'm generally pretty amazed. Not that it's bad to want Google to do better -- I'm sure they'd like to do better too (highly relevant ads are why they're making money, after all).

One Q for you: would it possibly bother you if the advertising became *too* relevant?

Posted by: greglas | Oct 12, 2006 9:23:59 AM

SSRN is for profit.


Posted by: Anthony | Oct 12, 2006 4:32:36 AM

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