What happens if online advertising is just a big, fat bubble? – Marketplace

What happens if online advertising is just a big, fat bubble? – Marketplace

Big Tech monopolies are in the news this week. The Department of Justice sued Google over how it maintains its search dominance, and its search dominance is the key to its business model, which is that it makes 80% of its revenue from digital advertising. Facebook makes 99% of its revenue from advertising. 

The profitability of targeted ads is also a big reason why tech companies are constantly collecting so much data about us. And there’s a multibillion-dollar ad tech industry that exists because all of this makes so much money. But what if these ads didn’t actually work all that well?

I spoke with Tim Hwang, a former public policy executive at Google where he worked on artificial intelligence and machine learning. He’s the author of the new book, “Subprime Attention Crisis.” The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Headshot of Tim Hwang, a former global public policy lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google. He’s author of the new book Subprime Attention Crisis.
Tim Hwang (Photo courtesy of Leafan Rosen)

Tim Hwang: I think this is an interesting and important distinction, which is it’s not necessarily to make the argument that advertising never works categorically — we have examples of it working. The question is whether or not the market as a whole really
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