Update: ~3 months later, revised and submitted as EutopiAd.
Previously mentioned as “a new take on advertising structured around incentivizing openness”, one of “two lean, scalable web-based interventions that have potential for realigning parts of the knowledge economy with openness.”
The sketch below serves as a preliminary high level description of the project, as as a potential proposal. The questions are from the Knight Prototype Fund application.
This proposal was not submitted. Comments, critique, involvement all still welcome: proposal effectively serves as a sketch of a future project.
Advis (working title)
What is your project?
An ad network designed to incentivize pro-social behavior by website owners (e.g. open licensing, not enabling 3rd party user surveillance) and by advertisers (e.g. useful ads tailored to website or app context, not user user surveillance).
Remember print publications that used to be read for the ads, eg trade publications and local newspapers? Has anyone ever visited a website or started an app in order to view ads (excepting those in the internet ads business, or researching that business)? It must be very rare, except for two sorts of websites: search engines (e.g. Google) and dedicated ad sites (e.g. Craigslist).
Taking inspiration from print, search, and dedicated ad sites, Advis will provide a platform for associating ads relevant to site context, not user data, with any site that behaves in a pro-social manner. Advis will not work for sites aiming to optimize ad or licensing revenue. But a large portion of the web is not optimized for short-term revenue. We believe that this portion of the web should grow, and can be provided with support and further incentive for pro-social behavior through the Advis platform.
What assumptions will you test?
- enough advertisers will want to place useful advertisements associated with specific websites (in contrast with ads associated with keyword searches or user tracking/demographic profiles)
- enough website owners are not committed to revenue optimization
- enough users would look at ads associated with specific websites (akin to reading a trade publication or local newspaper for the ads)
Where “enough” means first, adequate to sustain a small Advis operation, and second, adequate to make a notable contribution toward de-optimizing web advertising and increasing pro-social behavior by website owners.
Who is the audience/user of this project? How will they be impacted?
- advertisers will be able to associate ads with specific websites, achieving highly context-specific but not at all user-specific targeting, much like successful advertising in trade publications
- website owners will have a new option for (some, but not maximized) revenue, while avoiding work and ethical challenge of ad and licensing revenue optimization; the impact would be improved results for website owners willing to engage in pro-social behavior
- web users/general public will be able to find ads specifically intended for a publication context; further some will be motivated to become advertisers (or even sponsors for pro-social behavior sites) given the ability to place such ads or publishers, given opportunity to earn some revenue without optimizing for such (hard work and encouraging anti-social behavior)
What progress, if any, have you made on this project?
None on this specific project, it is in idea/research phase. I have built ad systems in the distant past (1994 and 2000) targeting publication context rather than users, and prototyped and threw away an ancestor of this idea in 2012 (I decided the ancestor was inadequate as either a for-profit or social-mission startup; Advis leans heavily toward the latter). These past efforts inform the current project.