Monday, July 23, 2012

11th Commandment

Anxiety and anticipated Schadenfreude†are beginning to erupt. This coming Thursday Facebook will publish its first earnings results since going public. Does Facebook have the moxie to attract the advertising revenues that may in future rival Google’s? Those who hunger and thirst for an uninterrupted population growth in the Olympus of the Cyber Cosmos—especially as Yahoo seems to be ailing—are anxious. Those who delighted in Facebook’s rocky IPO are sharpening their pencils; whatever the results next Thursday, they will find them wanting.

Now, don’t you know it, advertising must be personalized. The ads appearing when You land on Facebook must mean You, You, You. And Facebook, presumably, has all the stuff it needs to personalize the ads. After all, its members reveal such tightly-held secrets as their gender, age, and where they went to school. And then there are those many words they write there that can be individually mined and polished into pointers straight at ads. Am I a little doubtful? Yes. Suppose I shared with Facebook that I spend a minimum three hours a day in giving myself elaborate pedicures. Just suppose that. Now if I really did that, I would have quite an arsenal of nailclippers, creams, and even nail polishes already—not to say tiny little cotton pads to place between my toes to keep them sweating as I labor on their edges or polish, prime, and paint their sufaces. Foot odor would be a no-no, several brands of foot deodorants would stand there waiting to yield creams and sprays. Therefore, arriving at Facebook, all those ads trying to sell me Surecut Serrated Toenail Scissors (which I usually call SSTS here at home) or Sally Hansen Clip n’ Catch—or bottles of her Hard As Nails, of which one is still half full—or Pour Homme Ultra Slim Clipper in Black Leather Pouch (which I bought and only use for clipping the small toe nail on my left foot), why all those ads would mean nothing at all to me. They would be same-old, same-old. Yes, I have my doubts.

But what can a poor industry, entirely dependent on advertising revenue, do? What except to innovate? Yes, to innovate. Thus Facebook has a program of tracking people’s off-Facebook travels on the Internet and examine, using little bots (they work for mere pennies per nanosecond), the key words found on those sites so that, when people return to Facebook again, new ads, based on this on-the-hoof research can be presented to the owner. I went to check out how the Roman poet Virgil’s name is spelled. In the future, once that innovation is in place, I’ll see on Facebook is an ad offering me Virgil’s Aeneid. But I already own three different editions.

So what else can the poor industry do? They can drive me, lash me, seduce me, prod me to do even more self-entertainment. Only when I do that can they present me with their ads and if the minor gods of statistics so will it, I will actually click through. It should be a commandment, the 11th Commandment. Thou Shalt Engage in Entertainment. Failing which, the Cyber Heaven will cloud over and the radiance of the gods up there will dim.
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†The German word means joy over others’ misfortunes, literally “damage-joy.”

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