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New digital companies, old advertising habits

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here . is a collection of last column.

I have nothing against ads. They make it more affordable for us to watch “Monday Night Football” and read The New York Times. I love a well-cried TV commercial.

What I don’t like is young companies becoming addicted to ads – to our detriment and maybe to theirs.

DoorDash started delivering this week more prominent place Restaurants paying for their listings when people search for pizza or tacos. Its competitors Uber Eats and Grubhub serve similar ads. Instacart, a grocery delivery start-up, moving forward Its paid product placement. Even as Amazon keeps rolling out more shopping real estate For the merchants who pay their dog beds to scare us.

At best, ads can help us find something we didn’t know we wanted, and can save us money. (Coupons are advertising, too.) The trick is striking the right balance between serving companies that are billing for advertising and those of us on the receiving end’s interests.

I’m afraid more companies have pointed to the devil’s bargaining than advertising fair trade. Companies like DoorDash, Instacart and Amazon are putting our online browsing and shopping experience at risk Sad By cramming more, and often irrelevant, ads. And let’s be straight: It’s helpful to see a burger restaurant in a prime location on Uber Eats, not because the food is good, but because it’s paying for the privilege of appearing there.

Companies flocking to advertising as a side hustle are leaning on ads for two reasons: peer pressure and attention to the financial flaws of app-based delivery services.

I have sympathy. Sending couriers to restaurants or grocery stores and then to your door is a tough business. I know why Instacart charges Altoids money for being the first product listed in the Snacks section of the app. I understand why Altoids is willing to pay to look different.

And traditional supermarkets have done so for a long time. Those chips at the end of the aisle would have paid for the store to be there.

We still don’t have to be happy about introducing some unhelpful marketing into the new generation of shopping that promises to be better. And whether it’s a physical store or an app, there’s something perverse about browsing the aisles while the company makes us money by moving one brand of toothpaste over another.

Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at advertising firm Publicis Communications, told me that digital advertising has become a race to the bottom.

Three companies that are essential portals for online information- GoogleFacebook and Amazon are all slowly turning the dial on ads. They are turning over more screen space to links, posts or products from companies that pay them to put them before our eyes, and less of the information that companies determine may be most relevant to us.

Goldberg said this steady shift to more commercials online and in traditional media such as TV has forced everyone to consider doing the same.

The best defense of what companies like DoorDash, Instacart and Amazon are doing is that ads can make convenience services more affordable. boss of instacart where is That advertising helps drive down prices for grocery deliveries. DoorDash may charge a lower commission than most restaurants and may offer paid promotions for those willing to pay for it.

Now I’ll be my usual grumbling crank: If delivery apps or other convenience services we love should be subsidized by ads we hate, maybe those convenience services no financial sense?

Sridhar Ramaswamy, a former Google executive in charge of its advertising arm, described advertising as a “stress-free valve” for companies that are feeling financial pressure. “It feels like free money,” he told me.

Ramaswamy left Google and Launched an ad-free digital search company There is called Niva which makes money on subscriptions from the people who pay for the service. I don’t know if Niva will be successful or not. But we should be glad that more companies are trying to break bad advertising habits.


  • Is Instagram bad for kids? this is complex. my colleague jessica gros digs into some research Whether social media use makes teen girls feel bad about themselves, and tips for parents. Farhad Manju of The New York Times Opinion takes us A short history of moral panic About video games, “sexting” and urban gangs, and say that exaggerated fears run the risk of distracting us from the underlying problems.

  • Okay, *who* is making a living online? Axios asks an important question: Is the creator economy of people doing their favorite things on YouTube, Twitch or Substack more democratic than in the older entertainment and media industries? Or Only 1 percent of the stars are making a good livingCraving for peanuts, and everyone else?

  • How Slack is changing office work: The Atlantic has long read about the ways that Slack and similar chat apps for office workers are blurring the lines between work and life, and giving workers the ability to challenge their bosses. We are still figuring out how such technologies are affecting the way humans interact.

Alyssa Barry creates fascinating TikTok videos about life at her animal sanctuary in Florida. this is Wilbur Pig “Help” Barry do the morning rounds. (I first read about this Tiktok account From my colleague Julia Jacobs.)


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