The reality is that ad networks have simply brought the super market tabloids into the Internet age. Anyone over 30 will remember batboy or Loch Ness monster headlines before the tabloids went full celebrity gossip. “Fake news” used to line the checkout aisle of every grocery store in the country.
But with names like “The Enquirer” or “Weekly World News”, we knew what we were getting.
The reason that tabloids lined the check aisle with gum and candy bars was to promote impulse purchases. Give someone a salacious enough headline and they’d trade a few dollars for a few minutes of entertainment.
Today, the Internet has become a way to monetize all of our impulses through ads. Any successful social platform enables a serotonin release by satisfying some innately human desire.
Display ad networks are no different. They’re just dangling impulse purchase opportunities in front of us in more places and hiding behind more serious sounding publication names.
My ability to go anywhere or do anything without being sold to is greatly impeded on the Internet. If an ad network let me choose the kinds of sources I was interested in, I’d be 100% on board. But it wouldn’t be financially sustainable. Junk food is always going to be cheaper to produce.