A reader recentlty wrote to me asking why the ads he was seeing on The Daily Banter seemed very specifically targetted to him - there were ads that appeared with the company he worked for and the internet provider he uses. Here's the answer:
People have grown accustomed to being tracked online and shown ads for categories of products they have shown interest in, be it tennis or bank loans.
Increasingly, however, the ads tailored to them are for specific products that they have perused online. While the technique, which the ad industry calls personalized retargeting or remarketing, is not new, it is becoming more pervasive as companies like Google and Microsoft have entered the field. And retargeting has reached a level of precision that is leaving consumers with the palpable feeling that they are being watched as they roam the virtual aisles of online stores.
While I'm generally not a huge fan of advertising as an industry, I do recognize the need for it in the publishing world. Writers simply won't get paid for their work as there are very few ways of making money. Advertising is, in my view, an absolutely necessary evil. The fact that they are getting smarter and smarter at targetting prospective consumers is a little scary, but at the end of the day, without the revenue (which is already pretty bad), independent outlets like my own simply would not exist.