We May Not Surrender Our Free Will to Computerized Algorithms After All
Jonathan Taplin: There is an assumption that young people don't care about privacy anymore. I think that's probably a false assumption.
Jonathan Taplin is a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Taplin’s areas of specialization are in international communication management and the field of digital media entertainment. Taplin began his entertainment career in 1969 as Tour Manager for Bob Dylan and The Band. In 1973 he produced Martin Scorsese’s first feature film, Mean Streets which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Between 1974 and 1996, Taplin produced 26 hours of television documentaries (including The Prize and Cadillac Desert for PBS) and 12 feature films including The Last Waltz, Until The End of the World, Under Fire and To Die For. His films were nominated for Oscar and Golden Globe awards and chosen for The Cannes Film Festival five times.
In 1984 Taplin acted as the investment advisor to the Bass Brothers in their successful attempt to save Walt Disney Studios from a corporate raid. This experience brought him to Merrill Lynch, where he served as vice president of media mergers and acquisitions. In this role, he helped re-engineer the media landscape on transactions such as the leveraged buyout of Viacom. Taplin was a founder of Intertainer and has served as its Chairman and CEO since June 1996. Intertainer was the pioneer video-on-demand company for both cable and broadband Internet markets. Taplin holds two patents for video on demand technologies. Professor Taplin has provided consulting services on Broadband technology to the President of Portugal and the Parliament of the Spanish state of Catalonia and the Government of Singapore.
Mr. Taplin graduated from Princeton University. He is a member of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and sits on the International Advisory Board of the Singapore Media Authority and is a fellow at the Center for Public Diplomacy. Mr. Taplin was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Broadband Task Force in January of 2007. He was named one of the 50 most social media savvy professors in America by Online College and one of the 100 American Digerati by Deloitte’s Edge Institute.
There's this notion that big data is going to be the foundation of the new advertising business. In other words, maybe Google and Facebook are the predecessors of services that know everything about you, that know what you like, where you want to go, where you're visiting, what your wishes are, and deliver you stuff before you're even sure if you want it.
This will all be driven by computerized algorithms. This is not humans deciding "I'm going to buy this spot on this TV show at this hour." This is an algorithm reacting to a cookie in 36 microseconds and bidding your attention to four or five buyers who want to get an ad in front of you at that exact moment when you might be interested in making a vacation decision. That assumes that you are willing to give up all your data and have no concern for privacy. And needless to say from an advertiser point of view, this is kind of the Holy Grail.
There is an assumption that young people don't care about privacy anymore. I think that's probably a false assumption. I think the NSA revelations and all the things like that have had some effect on people rethinking that assumption. Maybe 28-year-olds actually do have an expectation of some privacy and may not be willing to surrender all the data for free to advertisers in order to be living in this world.
What's more troubling is one would think that all these new targeting techniques from online advertising would raise CPMs, that's cost per thousand, and they're not because the laws of supply and demand do not apply on the Web in terms of advertising, whereas in TV there's a fixed number of advertising spots per hour. And so supply meets demand, everything sells, it clears. But online, there's an infinite number of ad inventory spots. Anybody can put up a blog, put advertising on it. You go to the pirate sites and there's just hundreds of thousands of pieces of advertising all over those sites. So the pressure is always downward on the CPMs. And no matter how good the targeting is, there's a constant downward pressure because there's too much supply and not enough demand.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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