The Blog of Brian Ballard Quass

E-mail sent today (January 8, 2015) to the This Morning podcast from the Wall Street Journal.

The Dark Side of Relevancy

Hey, Gordon,

I like the podcast. As a night worker, I enjoy the opportunity to catch up on the national news despite my inability to watch any of the usual early evening news offerings on television.

That said, I have two pieces of constructive criticism in the form of suggestions:

1) Consider allowing listeners (at least those, like myself, who speak up on this issue) to "opt out" of "targeted advertising" (as opposed to regular advertising for a generic audience). As a 55-year-old webmaster, I find it downright eerie that the first two commercials that I heard today on your podcast were about website creation and prostate cancer respectively. The ads were obviously targeted directly toward my demographic, and possibly toward me personally. This gives me a creepy feeling, as if a nagging in-law were in charge of WSJ advertisements -- a nagging in-law who's been snooping around my desk and rummaging through my trash cans. Now I am in suspense every time I hear an ad on your podcast, wondering what this digital busybody is going to foist upon me for my own good and what that choice might have to say about my online persona and how it's being tracked online. Speaking of which: These ads are also a jolting reminder that I am, indeed, being followed by advertisers who are taking notes on me. I don't know how others react to this (or how they will eventually react as ads get more and more "relevant" in this way) but I am much less likely to follow your podcast on a daily basis now (as I had originally planned to do) in light of these advertiser attempts to parlay their online "spying" data into ad sales.

2) Speaking of ads: just one, please!

I think that I heard just one in the first "This Morning" podcast that I listened to. Today's podcast had at least two in the first 10 minutes. (Perhaps this is even by design? that the number of ads increases as a function of time?) Although this would have been more tolerable had the ads not been so aggressively chosen for me personally (see comment #1 above), I think you'd gain a bigger podcast following (and ultimately make more advertising revenue) by seriously limiting the number of ads that are inserted in this podcast, ideally to just one (as it were "ultra") opening ad, for which you could charge the sum of the fees that you are currently charging to a variety of podcast advertisers. I think people are learning to accept ads in valuable podcasts, but I don't think that most people are ready for podcasts to start emulating TV shows when it comes to ad frequency.

Besides, if I knew that there was to be only one ad during the entire podcast (albeit a different "single ad" for each different user), I could probably temporarily "get past" the privacy concerns that I mentioned above. But I am not prepared to sit through a litany of biographically informed advertisements (laden with the baggage of privacy concerns) just to catch up on the morning news. (True: I'll be targeted on other sites, too -- say while READING the news online -- but only by ads that I can ignore or, barring that, can easily click away from. The podcast, however, is a linear creation, so one generally listens to all of it or none of it.)

[ Sigh ]

I inserted a sigh here because I so seldom get responses to letters like these -- but hopefully you'll receive (and even read!) this e-mail, and at least consider the issues and suggestions that I have raised. (Not that I doubt you personally, of course, but historical data suggests that I'm probably writing this for my benefit alone.)

To sum up: "This Morning" is an informative podcast, a great way to catch up on world events, BUT....

Sincerely Yours,
Brian Quass
Basye, Virginia

wall street journal, targeted ads,this morning

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