Tag Archives: critical media literacy

Internet Ad Fail: Meg Whitman wants to “captcha” your vote

Over the weekend, I ran across a disturbing new trend in internet advertising – and a sign of just how big an advertising push Meg Whitman is making in her bid to get elected governor of California.

Anyone who has spent any real time on the internet in the past few years will know what a “captcha” is – one of those distorted images of words, which you are required to type in correctly to verify that you are, in fact, a human rather than some spambot trying to download something or register on some site or whatever.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I saw a “captcha” that was also an advertisement, with the text one was required to type in being some of the text from the ad.  In this case, the ad was from Meg Whitman’s political campaign:


It’s easy to see how this will catch on. I assume that many if not most or all of the websites that currently use “captcha” technology to screen users pay some sort of fee for the widget.  The company behind this ad captcha widget probably provides it free of charge, and makes its money selling that space for advertising. So websites will be greatly tempted to use these ad captchas in place of the old ad-free ones.

This is not the only insidious newer form of internet advertising in which Meg Whitman popped up recently.  I use an RSS/net news reader (NetNewsWire for the Mac) to monitor syndication feeds from a large number of websites – from major commercial sites like The New York Times to smaller special interest blogs such as La Vida Locavore.  Many of these sites I read almost exclusively in this way, via their feeds – only visiting the actual website when a post grabs my attention and clearly has content that has not been included in the feed, or when I want to post a comment.

One such site that I follow is the progressive environmental site, Grist (“A beacon in the smog”). Perversely, last week Grist’s RSS feed regularly and apparently exclusively featured ads for Meg Whitman – whom I doubt many people at Grist support. It’s like opening your copy of The Nation and finding an ad for the NRA – something that would never happen in the “real world,” but is surprisingly common with online advertising, even with contextual advertising.

But if the pairing of Grist and Meg Whitman seems improbable and unfortunate, it is nothing compared to what I saw in their RSS feed today – ads touting the benefits of clean coal:

The mind reels…

Of course, Grist almost certainly has no control over which ads appear in their feed. The ads are served up by a company (Pheedo) with no input from them.  But what the perversity of the recent ads appearing in Grist’s feed demonstrates is how problematic such input-free advertising can be.  I doubt I’m the only one who was seriously put off by these ads – more than I would have been seeing them elsewhere.

Read This: The curious case of uppity Uppingham

Writing for England’s Observer, Victoria Coren compares the response to a “revolt” by students at expensive private school Uppingham with the case of the teacher who bludgeoned a student with a 3kg weight – and whose acquittal was “greeted with a sort of public jubilation”:

The curious case of uppity Uppingham: “I want to go to Uppingham because of the revolt. Last week, hundreds of pupils staged a rebellion after seven of their peers were expelled for bullying. They marched into the quad, chanting for the headmaster and shouting abuse, before heading off to smoke and drink on the playing fields.”

(Via Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Looking at the two incidents side-by-side, Coren sees a crisis demanding attention:

“If people believe that is the state of play in British schools, then nothing else matters. The electoral candidates should have had no other priority. It is a state of emergency as immediate and intense as the street riots in Greece….

forget the debt, forget the war, forget electoral reform. The public response to that pupil attack, the idea of “Yes, well, he would, wouldn’t he?”, is the scariest thing to have happened in this country for years. Put your jacket back on, set the toasting fork down and start putting out the flames.”

Coren’s right in many ways, and what she says applies not just to the state of British schools. The oil spill and the immigration situation in Arizona are serious matters, but consider the amount of media attention and energy they are getting. And then consider the crises closer to home, with children, the appalling state of public education, endemic homelessness, endemic violence against women, corporate despoiling of the environment as a matter of daily business, racism riddled through American society… Why do we allow these crises to become normalized, to cease to outrage us on a daily basis?

Site of the Week: The Billboard Liberation Front

Billboard Liberation Front

The Billboard Liberation Front has teamed up the Wachovia Bank and the Treasury Department to bring you a new stimulus package for the long cold recession ahead, Money to Burn.

We offer a broad range of black-bag operations and cultural jam services, from project management and subversion consulting to media manipulation and thought placement. The key to our success is developing a true collaboration with our clients, and by caring as much about the working relationship as we do about the final execution. Our philosophy and track record has resulted in roster of long-term, satisfied clients in a diverse range of industries, from Fortune 1000 companies to local entrepreneurs.

(via The Billboard Liberation Front.)

Website of the Week: Demotix.com | The Street Wire

About Us: “Demotix is a citizen-journalism website and photo agency. It takes user-generated content (UGC) and photographs from freelance journalists and amateurs, and markets them to the mainstream media.

Demotix was founded with two principles at its heart – the freedom of speech and the freedom to know. Its objective is nothing if not ambitious – to rescue journalism and promote free expression by connecting independent journalists with the traditional media.

Demotix now has over 14,000 members, in 110 countries around the world from Afghanistan to Zambia.”

(via Demotix.com.)

Demotix Hooks DIY Journos Into Mainstream: “Demotix is a new type of wire service designed to make it easier for international news stories by citizen journalists and freelance reporters to make it into the mainstream media.

The U.K. company is essentially a user-friendly middleman. For instance, a photographer in Afghanistan with an image of a car bombing can log in to the Demotix website and upload an image with caption info; Demotix reviews it and pushes it to the company’s feed.”

(via Epicenter | Wired.com.)

The Story of Bottled Water

The Story of Bottled Water

This rocks – hard. Check out other Story of Stuff films: