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Policy / DCN perspectives on policy, law, and legislative news surrounding digital content

Can you hear me now? 

October 22, 2015 | By Jason Kint, CEO—DCN

The Internet has ushered in the most profound shift in the history of media. The public is in charge. As the seminal book of the 90s, Cluetrain Manifesto, noted in its preamble,

“We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings  and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”

Yet, at the same time, the Internet boom has also brought endless ways middlemen can take advantage of short-term opportunities without serving these human beings. These self-serving intermediaries do not survive long-term, but they can do plenty of damage regardless of their lifespan. Whether you’re an e-commerce company as respected as Amazon, a publisher as trusted as the New York Times, a brand advertiser as loved as Coca-Cola or a platform as large as Facebook, if you fail to think about your customers and what they most want, you will be replaced. Understanding that we’ve migrated to an on-demand, consumer-driven world is key to building, long-term sustainable businesses.

So how did we get here? It starts and ends with the simple but powerful idea of what the Internet really is. It’s not the web, it’s not your iPhone, it’s not Comcast or AT&T and it’s not Facebook. The Internet is and will always be “packets” traveling between two points without discrimination. The Open Internet that was gifted to all of us by the geniuses that created it and put the consumer in charge for the first time.

At DCN, our members understand that their brands and businesses are built on the delivery of experiences, be it information or entertainment, to advertisers and consumers. Delivering that value builds trust. And, by definition, a premium publisher balances that trust with consumers and advertisers each and every day. To illustrate this ongoing commitment, take a look at our recently released research, DCN Bot Benchmark Report.

Against this backdrop, I recently responded to a request by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to offer comments on the future of cross-device tracking. It’s an incredibly important discussion and I’m thrilled to see the FTC continue to play the role of fostering open and candid discussion without threat of regulation. We’re building the future and these discussions have significant consequences. That being said, this discussion isn’t new. Yes, the method and scope of the discussion has changed. But it’s fairly simple to find the solutions when you wear your “consumer hat” and put their needs, expectations and concerns first.

Thus, it won’t come as a surprise that DCN’s comments to the FTC are focused on consumer expectations. At a bare minimum, any consumer should have transparency into how they’re being tracked across devices and be provided with simple, effective ways to control this tracking. At this point in time, I have deep concerns about incumbent interests once again getting this wrong. The industry currently suffers from an advertising supply chain that acts as a trust vacuum to the point that consumers are now opting entirely out of advertising altogether in what must be considered nothing short of a boycott.

Consider some ways in which cross-device tracking can be used:

Verizon Wireless, the ISP that connects more Americans to the Internet than any other company, has in the previous year been caught and pulled back from publicly broadcasting unique IDs of their customers for advertisers and everyone else to see. They’ve since acquired AOL, all of its inventory along with MSN’s inventory, and announced plans to monetize behavioral data from tracking consumer consumption across their pipes and airwaves. Would a consumer expect this? No. Can consumers control it? Not easily. Value to consumers: Zero. 

Facebook, the largest social platform having achieved one billion active users in a day, has announced plans to begin using the ubiquitous “Like” button to track consumers, before they even click on the button. They’ll do this on other sites, apps and devices if consumers are logged into Facebook anywhere on their device. Would a consumer expect this? No. Can consumers control it? Not easily. Value to consumers: Zero. 

Amazon, the largest e-commerce company in the world, allows consumers to log into multiple devices thereby pulling up their order history and making recommendations on other products they may want to buy. Would a consumer expect this? Yes. Can consumers control it? Yes, they can choose not to use Amazon. Value to consumers: Significant.

ESPN, the largest sports media company in the world, allows consumers to log into multiple devices thereby recognizing their favorite teams and personalizing their sports experiences. Would a consumer expect this? Yes. Can consumers control it? Yes, they can choose not to visit ESPN products. Value to consumers: Significant.

Our industry has spent billions of dollars in advertising technologies over the past few years. These investments have benefited advertisers, publishers and—most often—intermediaries. What clearly demonstrates that this money is not being spent wisely is that the consumer has been left out. Now those same consumers through the rise in adblocking are saying, “Can you hear me now? Deal with it.”

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