The Internet Needs The Ignorant

There seem to be two kinds of internaut in this world: those who believe in individuals willing to selflessly give away the secret to earning £6,428 a day [in your pants, in 3 easy steps]; and those who think the first lot are idiots. While I certainly sympathise (to a certain extent) with the latter I think we owe a huge amount to the former.

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The Internet, like TV before it, is driven by advertisements. Google, Facebook, Twitter are all free services paid for by brands looking to capture our attention. They – amongst other similarly monetised businesses – are also the lynchpins of the web, both on their own merits and as platforms / enablers for other services to flourish.

Parroting Pareto

Hypothesis: Most people don’t click on ads. It’s the people who think Google ads are the same as Google search, those gullible enough to click through to ‘the weight loss secret doctors don’t want you to know’ and the minority replying to Nigerian princes who are footing the bill for the revolution known as the Internet.

3% of people are doing most of the Facebook ad clicks.

2 or so individuals in a thousand are putting money in a spammer’s pocket.

0.2% of internetters are responsible for the lion’s share of banner ad clicks.

[As with all things, take these percentages with a pinch of data-cynism. The point of listing them is that they are in line with most similar surveys and reports, but written or stated better to illustrate my point.]

A rallying cry for all tech-savvy types

The Internet is the best thing ever. It has redefined almost every sphere of human activity I can think to name. Yet, without the mad clicking of the ignorant few, it may never have been.

So while I may find my belief in humanity crumbling as I glimpse an inane, appallingly transparent forum spamming or shake my head at yet another advert offering to solve my potential virility problems a part of me is happy to accept these things: there are people on the Internet, people I can’t begin to fathom, for whom these things make sense. These people are paying for all the things I cherish the most.

Long may they continue.

[P.s. A few corollary thoughts and questions: do better advertisements get more clicks from the informed? How much? Adsense, compared to e.g. Facebook, seems to do a better job of providing useful ads; Are the tech-savvy simply less likely to click on ads, preferring to research an interesting product rather than clicking through; Is this argument still relevant as ads get better?; Might it be better to say that the Internet need-ED the ignorant to develop to this point?; And does anyone have any good data for and against any of these points?]

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