A look behind the curtain at secrets of internet advertising

Summary: Here is a look behind the curtain at the advertising that supports the internet. The coding and software that controls the advertising controls much of what we see.


The internet — the information superhighway — has become a major source of information for most Americans. Those that control it, control us. Sometimes that control is deliberate — as social media corporations use their power to make money and further the political goals of their senior executives.

Sometimes that control is indirect. Such as advertisers preferences in the kinds of content they use. Software analyzes the content — seldom an unbiased process.

To see how this process works, this is how content on the FM website is classified for advertisers. These are codes devised by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to categorized keywords (their version 1 categories). Software of Integral Ad Science scans a website and produces this display. These codes make us look like an ISIS-run slasher festival.

Advertising coding

No surprise, the FM website’s advertising revenue has crashed. It used to cover the basic cost of running the website. It was $3 in December. That is no longer worth the inconvenience of ads to readers, so I turned the ads off — keeping only the links to Amazon books.

Advertising money shapes the entertainment we watch and the news that shapes our thinking. The codes and systems that to apply these codes to internet content wield real power.

Do you know how these systems work?

Post your explanation in the comments.

For More Information

Look at the right sidebar to see the range of subjects covered on the FM website. At the top is the “subscribe” box. Especially note the search box, the categories dropdown menu, and the tag cloud. News about themes followed here is posted on Facebook and on Twitter.

If you like any of these posts, please pass them on to friends or in comment threads elsewhere. Also, see the tip jar on the top of the right sidebar!

Here are a few posts about the FM website project.

6 thoughts on “A look behind the curtain at secrets of internet advertising”

  1. Thank you very much for this. What you watch and say is important. You run one of the very few sites I watch more or less daily. Keep up the good work.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I have never heard of that field rejecting an entry. It’s WordPress software, and beyond my control — even beyond my understanding.

  2. Here’s three links for primers- the market is about to change rapidly as Global500 companies are struggling to prove mROI and aROI. We should see a convergence of brand, marketing, and advertisement.

    Real-time bidding (RTB) is a means by which advertising inventory is bought and sold on a per-impression basis, via programmatic instantaneous auction, similar to financial markets

    NexGen Advetising: “TWO SECONDS IS NOT ENOUGH FOR P&G — “PRITCHARD CALLS FOR ‘NEXT GENERATION OF DIGITAL ADS'” — “the world’s biggest advertiser, has an even more fundamental problem: People really don’t want to watch ads, particularly in social media.”

    Salesforce and Google DMP/Analytics Partnership.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I agree on all points. Spending is skyrocketing on online advertising, yet ample research shows that much (most?) of it has a low ROI — because it is either ignored or disliked by viewers.

      “We should see a convergence of brand, marketing, and advertisement.”

      I provide marketing consulting to companies (mostly high-tech companies). I see companies with well-funded marketing teams, with well-credentialed experts possessing great technical expertise and wielding sci-fi like technology. None of it amounts to much, since marketing is wasted money without creativity.

      This is easily shown. Look at corporate websites in cutting edge fields, like cybersecurity. A thousand ways of making a useless claim: “We’re the best.” Lots of BIG BIG LARGE TYPE words and boring graphs. Seldom seen is a trace of insight imagination.

      So I’m sure we’ll see many similar articles to those you post. More big talk, high tech, and poor results.

  3. I’m not an expert in ad-based businesses, but do know that they tend to be very cyclical/correlated with the economy. As such, I am thinking the FAANG stocks may get slammed much harder than expected, dragging down the whole market and economy with them during the next recession. Apple may hold up because it has a hardware component (more of a hardware company, in reality?). The others are ad-based- even Amazon, evidently.

    CSCO is a reasonable model- the popular flavor during the .com mess. It lost about 90% of its value. Different industry, but similar problem- how to value the business, a “real business”, but worth about 60-90% less than its bubble value during the next business cycle.

    Thanks for your work.

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