Amazon’s ad business is both alluring and dangerous – Recode

Amazon’s business unit that primarily consists of advertising revenue registered another booming quarter this summer, growing to nearly $2.5 billion in sales during the three-month period, as Amazon announced yesterday in its third-quarter results.

The ad division’s fat profit margin — analysts estimate it could be as large as 75 percent — is a big reason why Amazon posted its largest quarterly profit ever in the third quarter. It’s also a big reason why the slowing growth of Amazon’s core online retail business isn’t a giant story in tech right now.

But Amazon’s ad business, for all its glitz and hype, does not come without significant risk: Namely, that an over-reliance on ads will ruin the Amazon shopping experience.

It’s already ruined. It’s been some time since search results on Amazon are helpful. If I search for, say, an author, I get one or two of their books, then ads for random self-published romance novels, then another book by the author, then more ads. If I click one of the books to view its page, I see more ads on the page. It’s the same for all types of products. When I look for something on Amazon now, I have to know what I want and by what brand. They’re killing the site.

Another example: I just searched for baking powder on Amazon UK. I wanted to buy some in bulk because it’s cheaper. The first two results are sponsored results for “Matcha green tea powder,” nothing at all what I’m looking for. They’re probably looking for “powder” as the keyword, which is, quite simply, stupid. Further down the page I get “No Egg (Egg Replacer),” then stevia, then face powder and silicone ice cube trays. Also lots of bicarbonate of soda, which, while close, is not what I’m looking for. Out of 22 results, only ten match my search. (Here is a link to the page; I’m not sure if everyone’s search results will be the same, or whether some of this has to do with my Amazon purchases.)

Source: Amazon’s ad business is both alluring and dangerous – Recode

After vote to kill privacy rules, users try to “pollute” their Web history – Ars Technica

While the US government is giving ISPs free rein to track their customers’ Internet usage for purposes of serving personalized advertisements, some Internet users are determined to fill their browsing history with junk so ISPs can’t discover their real browsing habits.

Scripts and browser extensions might be able to fill your Web history with random searches and site visits. But will this actually fool an ISP that scans your Web traffic and shares it with advertising networks?

This might not be the best solution, as the article explains, but it “just feels good.”

Source: After vote to kill privacy rules, users try to “pollute” their Web history | Ars Technica

Chase Had Ads on 400,000 Sites. Then on Just 5,000. Same Results. – The New York Times

As of a few weeks ago, advertisements for JPMorgan Chase were appearing on about 400,000 websites a month. It is the sort of eye-popping number that has become the norm these days for big companies that use automated tools to reach consumers online.

Now, as more and more brands find their ads popping up next to toxic content like fake news sites or offensive YouTube videos, JPMorgan has limited its display ads to about 5,000 websites it has preapproved, said Kristin Lemkau, the bank’s chief marketing officer. Surprisingly, the company is seeing little change in the cost of impressions or the visibility of its ads on the internet, she said.

Essentially, ads on crappy sites don’t serve any purpose. The people who visit those clickbait and fake news sites don’t click on ads. Gee, what a surprise…

To be fair, this sort of thing will shake up the web advertising market. Google in particular will start losing a lot of revenue, at least from big companies who have the resources to investigate this sort of thing.

Source: Chase Had Ads on 400,000 Sites. Then on Just 5,000. Same Results. – The New York Times

How to stop seeing your Amazon searches everywhere – USA Today

“Retargeting” — showing you ads for something you’ve looked for at some online store even as you visit other sites, in the hope that the reminder will persuade you to complete the purchase — is a common marketing practice. But Amazon’s outsized inventory and the time many of us spend there can make its retargeted ads more obvious and obnoxious than most.

I realized this firsthand a few weeks ago, when a few searches to check prices for a toilet seat left me staring at Amazon photos of toilet seats through the rest of the evening’s Web reading.

You can avoid this problem by doing your online shopping in a private-browsing or incognito-mode window. But it’s easy to forget to do that when you have 10 different pages open in tabs in your browser and you’re also switching between the Web, e-mail and other apps.

Instead, you can tell Amazon to stop sending you ads based on your shopping habits.

Read on to find out how to disable this. Thanks to Rob Pegoraro for pointing this out. I get so annoyed when I see things I’ve searched for in Amazon ads on other sites.

Source: How to stop seeing your Amazon searches everywhere

Samsung is adding new obtrusive ads to your old smart TV – The Verge

If you’re Samsung and you want to wring additional cash out of your television business, what do you do? Add annoying advertisements to TVs that people already have in their homes, apparently. The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung is readying the European expansion of an initiative it started in the United States last June: adding interactive advertisements to the menu bars of its high-end smart TVs. The impact isn’t going to be limited just to customers buying new Samsung televisions, either, as the company reportedly plans to use software updates to retroactively bring the ads to older models that people already have in their homes.

I’ve been considering buying a new TV, but I read stuff like this, and it turns me off. Not to mention the fact that buying a TV these days is more complicated than buying a computer…

Source: Samsung is adding new obtrusive ads to your old smart TV | The Verge