Sunday, November 24, 2013

Behavioral Advertising and Your Privacy: Facebook and Google Push Forward

Long before the days when snake oil salespeople would deftly select their marks from a crowd of curious onlookers, sellers have been using market segmentation to determine which customers, or more generally which types of customers, are more likely to succumb to a particular set of marketing efforts and which are presumably a waste of time.  (Or in the latter case, which segment would benefit from a different set of marketing efforts.)

Fast forward to the world of e-marketing where electronic data collection and detailed information on potential customers allow marketers to divide markets into subsets more easily and more accurately than ever.  Rather than use only state-of-being characteristics (such as demographics, socioeconomics, and geographic features) and state-of-mind characteristics (such as attitudes, interests, and opinions), online marketers can now use behavioral characteristics such as which websites are visited, which hotlinks are clicked, the pattern of online web surfing, and the timing of each visit.  This behavioral data provides additional information that allows marketers to target consumers with advertisements or product offers that are more likely to be received favorably.  This is the essence of online behavioral advertising (also called behavioral targeting).

What does this mean to consumers?  The good part of behavioral advertising is that consumers are likely to receive more advertising that is relevant to them and less that is irrelevant.  Behavioral advertising also should increase marketer efficiency, which should allow marketers to offer products at lower prices if the marketing cost savings are passed on to the consumers.  The downside, however, is that consumers may feel that their privacy is violated by the intense monitoring and data sharing that occurs due to behavioral advertising.

What’s New?

The issue of privacy has been discussed numerous times in the past (in this blog several times – click here or here for some examples).  But now Facebook and Google have been accused of pushing the data collection portion of their behavioral advertising efforts even further.

Last year Facebook announced that it would require its subscribers to use their new Timeline format for their profiles.  Although technically, this would not provide any additional personal information than what a user has provided in the past, privacy advocates were concerned that the new format would make information, particularly older postings, more easily accessible.  (Rather than having to press “older posts” continually and purposefully, the information could be acquired with just a little scrolling and a simple click.)

As for Google, the announcement that it would combine information from various sources to create better search results also irked consumer advocates who felt that building detailed profiles from online behavior is an invasion of one’s privacy.

So What?

Although many online consumers express concerns about the privacy of personal information, they continue to make purchases, provide information on Facebook and other social media platforms, and/or surf the internet non-anonymously (e.g., while logged into one of Google’s properties such as YouTube or Gmail).  Thus, the push by consumer advocates to have new laws created that limit the data collection and consolidation capabilities of Facebook, Google, and the other large online forces will not carry much weight.  (Not to mention that both Facebook and Google have increased their political lobbying spending greatly over the past few years.)

What do you think?

Will Google and Facebook continue to squeeze more information out of online consumers and use it to microsegment the internet population, providing even more targeted marketing offers?  If so, is this good or is it bad?  Better yet, is there anything online consumers can do about it?

Segmentation is sensible, but so is a bit of privacy.

Be sensible.
A little more reading...

Acohido, Byron, Scott Martin, and Jon Swartz (2012), “Consumers in the Middle of Google-Facebook Battle,” USA TODAY (January 26), <>.

Hart, Anne (2012), “Google Plans to Follow Online Activities of Users,” Allvoices (January 25), <>.

 Kupka, Anna (2012), “Facebook Timeline Now Mandatory For Everyone,” Forbes (January 24), <>.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Is "Online Privacy" the Ultimate Oxymoron?

The efficiency, global reach, and seemingly limitless information capacity of the internet is what makes it attractive to the great majority of people worldwide.  You can find a pizza place in Hoboken (quite a few of them in fact), the answer to that tough take-home quiz, the schematics of your dishwasher model's inner workings, and that grade school friend who you were too shy to approach "back in the day."

But, with all of its benefits, the internet also offers a number of drawbacks that have not gone unnoticed by industry managers, government officials, and consumer advocates.  Ironically, with its ability to make work more efficient, internet usage in businesses has often been blamed for a decrease in productivity.  Although this has been a challenge for industry, a larger issue has been developing over the past decade, that of the internet's role in the loss of personal privacy.

Personal Privacy Versus Corporate Productivity

One of the most significant benefits of the internet has been its ability to accumulate data at a speed much greater than that of any other communication medium.  From the initial use of email surveys, to website-based requests and provision of personal information, to the current use of click-stream monitoring to understand more specific consumer behavior, the online world has been a boon to market segmentation, target marketing, and now behavioral advertising.  But many have seen this rapid increase in consumer data gathering (with databases doubling every 1.2 years) as an assault on consumer privacy online.  As a result, consumer advocates and government entities have pushed back, even moving industry organizations to take privacy self-regulation more seriously.

We're Protected, Right?
With all of the discussion of online privacy and legislation such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), many web users may feel that their privacy is protected.  However, many complain that online privacy is at an all-time low.  For example, a Stanford University study found that most websites leak consumers' personal information to third parties, in spite of claims in their privacy policies that they will refrain from doing so.

Although most web users have the ability to limit some tracking of their behavior, as well as the use of tracked behavior to be used in determining which advertisements they receive, the vast majority of consumers fail to limit their own privacy invasion.  This may be due to a lack of knowledge regarding the ability to limit tracking or perhaps a desire to receive more targeted advertising that is likely to be appealing to that consumer's interests.  Furthermore, consumers are becoming less and less aware of company privacy policy changes, regardless of how large they may be (see article about Microsoft's uneventful changes here).

Regardless of the reasons, the substantial number of consumers who have voiced concerns over privacy issues has motivated Congress to consider various protections to allow consumers to opt out of online tracking.  However, the ability of technology to outpace legislation suggests that individual behavior may be the best way to protect one's privacy.  Currently, most consumers willingly provide vast amounts of information to potential advertisers via website registrations, online purchases, and open discussions on blogs and social networking sites.  Large amounts of information are even provided by children who fall under the protection of COPPA, much to the delight of online businesses that use that data to market a myriad of new products and services.

So the question remains, is "online privacy" even possible, or is the cost of online privacy too much of a burden for consumers, and perhaps even industry, to bear?  Indeed, is it even possible to experience the richness of the online world and still retain one's privacy?

Perhaps "Online" and "Privacy" may not be a sensible combination after all?

Be sensible,
A few articles to read...

Bazelon, Emily (2011), “Why Facebook Is After Your Kids,” The New York Times, (October 12), <>.

Brave, Scott (2012), “Making Sense of Online Personalization and Privacy,” Forbes (October 22),
Gruenwald, Juliana (2011), “Privacy Groups Hoping Stanford Study Prompts Action,” Nextgov: Technology and the Business of Government, (October 12), <>.

Wyatt, Edward and Nick Wingfield (2012), “As Microsoft Shifts Its Privacy Rules, an Uproar Is Absent,” New York Times (October 19),

Monday, October 7, 2013

Will Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr Really Matter Five Years from Now?

Long ago on this blog, we discussed potential ways to save MySpace from a painful demise.  For you young folk out there, MySpace is what preceded Facebook.  For you old geezers, MySpace is what followed Friendster.  Moreover, contrary to what some of you may think, MySpace is still alive, and well even, ranked in the top 500 (#452) in the U.S. in terms of online traffic.  (Can you say that about your website?)  In fact, just last year, MySpace bragged about signing up over one million new accounts in a month due to its renewed focus on music.

Okay, so maybe MySpace is still hanging on, at least for now.  But what's the prognosis for those other non-Facebook social networking sites that have enjoyed media attention over the past few years?  Is there truly a viable future for sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr?  Or will all of what they do be merged into a site such as Facebook?

Now, before you think I'm the ultimate pessimist, let's consider that in its heyday, MySpace was the presumably unbeatable leader in social networking (as was Friendster a few years earlier).  There were few, if any, who thought that it would ever fall like it did.  So what I'm wondering is this (and I'll need your thoughts to help me out): if one of the reasonably big social networking sites were to begin its decline, what would cause it to do so, and how could it be saved?

Let's try this exercise by considering any one of these three big players:
Your task if you're reading this is to let me know:
  1. If one (or more) of these sites were to start to decline, what do you think would be the potential factor(s) that would cause that decline?
  2. What do you think that website could potentially do either to prevent the decline or to reverse it?
Let me know in a comment below, and if you've written something related to this topic in your own blog, link to your own blog entry in your comment below.

Let's face it... if you're a social networking site, high traffic rank is sensible.

Be sensible.

P.S.  In just in case you were wondering... Friendster is still out there, ranked in the top 19,000 websites worldwide (and the top 7,000 in India) according to  Some websites just refuse to die.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Will Amazon be the next Walmart? New tax laws may be the catalyst.

Discussion of taxation often focuses primarily on income taxes, whether at personal or corporate levels, or on payroll taxes.  Lost amidst all this attention, however, is the fact that newly implemented sales taxes on internet purchases have been gaining ground in the United States.  While the effect on knowledgeable consumers has been predictable, there are many who have no clue as to the changes that are being made and how such taxation will change the business practices of online sellers.

Paying Sales Tax on Online Purchases

Since the early days of internet shopping, state governments have been frustrated with the complexity of taxing online commerce.  Does one collect tax in the state where the good is shipped, the state where the good is received, or the state where the transaction takes place (e.g., where the company has its servers that process the transaction)?  Previously, the practice of various states to tax online sales transactions that occurred entirely within their own states caused online retailers such as Amazon to carefully manage their physical presence (e.g., distribution centers, call centers) in order to avoid such taxation and thus maintain an advantage over their primarily face-to-face competitors.

But the days of no (or limited) online taxation appear to be over.  The state of California just implemented a ruling that online retailers will have to charge and collect state sales tax (as high as 9.75%) on internet sales.  Such action by California will clearly lead the charge for other states to follow suit. 

Effects on Online Retailers such as Amazon

The lack of sales taxation on online purchases has given Amazon a net pricing advantage over local face-to-face businesses in states where sales taxes are relatively high.  This is particularly the case for high-priced goods that have relatively low shipping costs.  For example, consider purchasing a $2,000 camera at a local California store where sales taxes might be as high as $195 (and the price likely higher) versus purchasing online where the only additional monetary cost is a shipping charge of $20.  As long as consumers were willing to wait a day or two for delivery, Amazon would most often come out ahead.

But new sales tax rules level at least one part of the playing field between Amazon (and other online retailers) and local face-to-face retailers.  Without the tax advantage, Amazon can still compete on price alone, but that must now be low enough to justify the additional delivery time without the tax savings consumers previously enjoyed.

Will Amazon Change its Physical Presence?

As other states emulate California's new law, online firms such as Amazon will cease to be so limited on where they can have an online presence.  Amazon distribution centers will likely spring up around various metropolitan areas so that more customers will enjoy the same-day delivery that the company currently offers in the Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New York City (and parts of New Jersey), Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. markets.  In fact, as the number of distribution centers increases, and the lack of tax differentiation takes effect, what's to stop Amazon from opening retail locations that directly challenge Walmart, Target, Sears, Kmart, Best Buy, and others? 

The Future of Online Competition

The taxation change and its resulting effects also will affect smaller online businesses that used to be able to compete with Amazon with respect to delivery times.  It has been said for years that the internet allowed even the smallest individual to compete with the largest corporation.  Are those days now limited?  What types of firms will still enjoy the online advantage?  How will taxation changes affect e-marketing?  And what's next for Amazon?  Did you know that Amazon was offering self-service pick-up locations at 7-Eleven stores as well as grocery delivery trucks?  What will they do next?
Amazon lockers located in 7-Eleven stores.

Even in an internet world, face-to-face still seems sensible.

Stay sensible,


Some additional reading to peruse:

Dreier, Hannah (2012), “Tax on Amazon purchases in Calif. begins Saturday,” Newsweek (September 13), <>.

Martinez, Amy (2012), “As tax-free sales go, Amazon looks to speed, convenience,” The Seattle Times (September 1), <>.

Santo, Michael (2012), “So it begins:, Web retailers start collecting sales tax in California,” (September 15), <>.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Where Is E-Marketing in the Buying Decision Process?

Q. Where is e-marketing in buying decision process?
A. It’s everywhere!

We know e-marketing is here to stay.  We know that its influence on the marketing exchange process is significant.  But how does e-marketing fit into the buying decision process?

To answer that, let’s first review the buying (or purchase) decision process.  Go interview ten marketing gurus and you’ll likely have ten versions of the buying decision process, but all in all, they represent the same three steps (sometimes broken down into 5 or more substeps):

1. Need/Desire Recognition.  We know that for any purchase to take place, the potential buyer has to recognize an unfulfilled need or desire.  This recognition can be caused by an internal stimulus (my stomach feels empty) or an external stimulus (I smell the pleasant aroma of my favorite food).

2. Need/Desire Development.  Now that we recognize this new “need,” we have to develop it so we can know what to buy.  What kind of food is available in our immediate vicinity?  Do we recognize the restaurants nearby?  Is the food we want a reasonable distance away?  How much do we want to spend?  How much time do we have to eat?  The questions (there are hundreds more) are seemingly endless, but at least some must be answered before we make the decision to buy.  In fact, it’s during this step that we both gather information (“information search”) and evaluate the various options that arise (“alternative evaluation”).  The information search can be both internal (retrieved from our own memory of past events or prior information search) and external (sought out specifically for this decision process.  The alternative evaluation can take on a number of forms and processes, and ranges from specific comparisons of easily measurable details (e.g., the calories per serving) to general comparisons of more abstract concepts (e.g., comparing the personal satisfaction of supporting a friend’s restaurant versus the pleasure derived from the ambiance of a small cafĂ© versus the opportunity costs of a time-consuming drive).

3. Need/Desire Fulfillment.  When we’ve reached some threshold of information and comparisons, we make our exchange (i.e., our purchase) and then consume or use what we’ve bought.  We also conduct post-purchase and post-consumption (post-usage) evaluations, which will likely influence the next buying decision process.

So where can e-marketing come into play?  Pretty much everywhere a marketer can have an influence, and that’s throughout the entire process.

Online promotions, emails from friends, what we read in a blog – all of these can stimulate our recognition that there’s something out there that we want, but that we don’t currently have.  Thus, it’s important for marketers to have channels in place to reach people where and when they’re most likely to recognize their needs or desires.  Targeted ads (e.g., using behavioral advertising), well-placed mentions in online text exchanges, or opt-in email marketing could be used to stimulate need recognition.

As for the need/desire development process, whether it’s a Google search, a product comparison table on a website, or asking questions on a discussion board, we know that e-marketing plays a key role these days in how people formulate what it is that they want.  Think about how you might have purchased a car or a house 15 years ago and how you’d do it now.  The vast majority of people have moved at least some part of that process online.

Finally, for a number of products, even the final fulfillment of the product can have at least one online component.  Whether it’s a completely online transaction such as purchasing on-demand video, or a partial online transaction like buying clothing from an online retailer, or even a face-to-face transaction that involves an after purchase online satisfaction survey, e-marketing again plays a role.

So not only is e-marketing here to stay, but it has permeated the buying decision process.  For marketers, this means that understanding e-marketing is as essential as understanding the buyer.

And we all know that in marketing, understanding the buyer and the buying decision process is sensible.

Be sensible.

Questions to consider:

  • In what ways has e-marketing changed at least one step of the buying decision process for a business or industry that you know well?
  • How can social media marketing do more to influence a particular step of the buying decision process?
  • How has e-marketing changed your own buying decision process for a particular product or industry?
  • Will the government attempt to limit the role of e-marketing in the purchase decision process? How and why?

Monday, September 16, 2013

How Much Interactivity Does Online Marketing Need?

We hear it all the time: Online marketing gives us "interactivity" with our clients.  It provides a chance to not only tell our story, but to listen to the stories of our customers.  Via various e-marketing applications, we can open up "a dialogue" with current and potential buyers.

But is interactivity in online marketing being oversold?  How much interactivity actually takes place?  And how much interactivity does your online marketing need to reap the benefits of various e-marketing tools such as social media, mobile apps, smart devices, behavioral advertising, and even just "old-fashioned" websites?

The Selling Points of Interactivity

Ever since the early days of the internet, marketers were excited that instead of just sitting in front of a television, potential customers would be surfing, searching, and socializing in a manner that allowed consumers the ability to self-select advertising messages, thus increasing the effectiveness of each particular ad that a consumer encountered.  As more interactive communication tools were developed, marketers dreamed of a world where every consumer would be their "friend" and billions of conversations would lead to more connectivity, positive affect, and brand loyalty.

Marketers built websites that did more than just present information.  They allowed visitors to play games, build potential products, and visualize products in various environments.  They invited consumers to interact through email, chat, discussion boards, feedback forums, and wall postings.  And they begged these same consumers to tell their friends of their excitement for the brand via votes, rankings, shares, likes, diggs, tweets, etc.

Marketers based their excitement for interactivity on the idea that more interaction or engagement would bring consumers psychologically closer to the brands that were being marketed, and that consumers would start to have some degree of loyalty toward the brand akin to one's loyalty toward friends.  But that's not always how it worked.

The Problems with Interactivity

There were five main problems with the dream of online interactivity:
  1. Interacting with consumers takes a lot of time, and time means money.
  2. Interaction is not always positive.
  3. As more companies interact, your particular brand isn't so special anymore.
  4. Once you start a consumer "friendship," it's hard to stop.
  5. Consumer interactions with each other may damage your brand image.
1. Interacting with consumers takes a lot of time, and time means money.  The first problem with interactivity, that it takes much more time than first thought, is a deal-breaker for a great many firms these days.  In the earlier days of online interactivity, marketers sent out an email or two in response to an online consumer inquiry.  As interactive methods were developed, the scope and intensity of interaction grew as well.  Now, with thousands (or millions) of consumers following a particular brand on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere, it's nearly impossible to respond to all posts much less read what is said about the brand.  Quite often, firms use algorithms to sort through comments or tweets to determine trends (whether positive or negative) without having to read each post.  Regardless, the promise of interaction has come to represent a fairly heavy financial burden on brands that truly want to interact on a one-to-one basis.

2. Interaction is not always positive.  When a customer sends a letter or an email complaining about a particular aspect of your brand, you have the opportunity to reply (if you have the time and labor force) in an attempt to resolve the complaint.  Fortunately, whether or not the complaint is resolved, the communication typically remains between the brand and the individual consumer.  The use of social media as an interaction tool, however, has opened up negative communications to other customers and, quite often, to the general public.  When marketers are slow to address negative comments, there is the risk that such comments will snowball and pull in consumers who may have similar tendencies toward negativity, but who were not prone to act upon that negativity in a manner that hurts the brand.  Although many optimistic marketers will suggest that any such avalanches of public complaining behavior provide an opportunity to improve the product offering and resolve the complaints, quite often the damage of a slew of negative commentary is hard to overcome.

3. As more companies interact, your particular brand isn't so special anymore. When you're the first in your market to respond to a consumer's desire for interaction, the effect is likely quite positive.  But the current state of the marketplace allows companies both large and small to interact with individual consumers at a relatively high frequency.  In other words, those consumer friends you were trying to bring to your lunch table are being wooed by a number of other suitors who may be having something better for lunch.

4. Once you start a consumer "friendship," it's hard to stop.  For many early entrants to the consumer interactivity game, the significant increase in employee or contractor time to interact with clients became unwieldy.  As new marketing metrics were developed, brand managers often found negative returns on the interactivity investments.  This resulted in decreased funding for interactive marketing.  It wasn't that brands wanted to say "goodbye" to their new consumer friends, but just that they didn't have so much time to talk anymore.  Unfortunately, many clients had become accustomed to the high levels of interaction and when interactivity declined, the potential for consumer disappointment became greater. 

5. Consumer interactions with each other may damage your brand image.  Positive word-of-mouth has always been appreciated by savvy marketers.  The advent of interactive e-marketing brought with it the potential not only for interactivity between the brand and the consumers, but between consumers as well.  While this meant a greater potential for positive word-of-mouth (or in its ultimate form, positive viral marketing), it also meant that negative talk could also be propagated.  In its innocent forms, this meant that disgruntled consumers could spread the word quite easily to other consumers about a particular negative aspect of the brand.  In its more sinister forms, it meant that competitors could infiltrate your brand's consumer base and make trouble like never before.

How much interactivity is needed?

Clearly, the answer to the question of how much interactivity is needed depends on the firm, the industry, the market segments to be served and their expectations, the competitive environment, the available technology, and the costs to interact.  Time and time again, marketers are quick to promote the idea that interactivity is the holy grail that will elevate a brand to highly profitable levels.  However, most marketers are slow to embrace the need for clear metrics to measure costs and benefits of interactivity.  But that's a topic for another day.

In the meantime, let's follow the premise that interactivity, at least to some degree, is sensible.

Be sensible,

A few more things to peruse:

Kim, Ryan (2011), “Badgeville Turns Any Website into a Social Network,” Gigaom (September 12),

Napoletano, Erika (2011), “How Two Small Companies Are Driving Revenue Using Social Media,” Entrepreneur (September 26),

Stead, Sylvia (2012), “As Online News Changes, Interactivity Becomes Important,” The Globe and Mail (April 2),, Inc. (2012), “Traditional Advertising Lacks 'Creative Interactivity' According to Online Creative Community Survey,” GlobeNewsWire (March 13),

Monday, January 30, 2012

Killing SOPA and PIPA: Did "the people" (or you?) really make a difference?

A mere few weeks ago (mid-January 2012), we were told by the press that the online world witnessed the formidable power of internet protesting as two new anti-piracy bills were shut down before they were able to have serious debate by the United States Congress.  As online users all over the U.S. and beyond became aware that the bills in question were being "postponed indefinitely," any significant reading of blogs, comments, and other online chatter made it clear that the general populace had become convinced that the collective "power of the people" was responsible for this legislative outcome.

But were they really?  Was it really the collective power of the people, or some other less organic influence that altered the future of internet legislation?  Before answering this question, let's briefly consider what this fight was all about.

PIPA, SOPA, and Online Piracy
The Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) were originally developed to combat the ever-growing online piracy dilemma.  Online piracy has grown to epic proportions, with almost an entire generation of youth now regularly downloading copyrighted music, movies, pictures, and books without providing any compensation to the creators and distributors of such works.  These activities generate a number of concerns, among them the potential that the drastic reduction in revenue for information and entertainment sources ultimately will result in lower quality content and production.

Although laws already exist in the United States to protect the intellectual property of various creative endeavors, a great deal of the online piracy unfortunately is derived from foreign sources beyond the scope of U.S. law.  The intent of PIPA and SOPA was not to punish foreign piracy sources directly, but to limit their reach and scope by punishing U.S. companies that facilitate the digital data transfer or assist web users in finding the illicit websites.

Who Was For and Who Was Against?
Although there is much agreement that online piracy is rampant and that it is harmful to the creative processes (i.e., stolen compensation demotivates artists to produce complicated and costly work), several large organizations were at the forefront of either supporting or opposing PIPA and SOPA.

On the supporting side were what blog site Boing Boing said were “five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers” that were trying “to maximize their profits.”  There is compelling evidence of their assertions: organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America expressed early support for these bills.  They were joined by media behemoths such as Time Warner and News Corp.  These firms generally argue (and rightfully so) that online piracy steals revenue, reduces the funding for quality content, and creates a culture of theft rather than fair exchange.
Wikipedia's Homepage on SOPA Protest Day

So with such good ideas for supporting SOPA and PIPA, who was against them?  On the opposing side was, in essence, the Internet.  Or at least the big players who would have been forced to police the massive user-generated content that increasingly dominates the online world.  Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, AOL, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo, Zynga (and the list goes on) all expressed support for limiting piracy, but also expressed concern over SOPA and PIPA's methods of achieving that goal.

Why Did the Protest Work?
The online protest, which took place January 18, 2012, was proposed as a way to show politicians that the online community was united in its opposition to SOPA and PIPA as written.  For the most part, it meant that homepages either “went dark” with a message opposing the legislation or at least included some reference to the concerns.  The results were impressive.  Not only did Congress table the bills and postpone their discussion indefinitely, but key supporters, such as the Entertainment Software Association, reversed their stances and dropped their support.

Thus, the online protest was deemed not only a success, but as a clear illustration of the power of the people.  But is the latter true?

Consider the messages that were delivered to Congress and how they were delivered.  Did numerous politicians just happen upon small blogs (such as this one), or read through a multitude of comments (both pro and con) to a news article, or consider the plight of the millions of people who just don’t feel the need to pay an artist for a song in order to listen to that song?  It’s doubtful. 

More likely, the power of this protest was driven not by “the people,” but by the large organizations who enjoy the bulk of the internet traffic.  Were it not for Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and the other online powerhouses, the bills likely would have moved forward without many changes to them.

Why Is This Important to Know?
Why do we care if it was the people or if it was a Google/Facebook collaboration that effected change?  Because as much as you may have enjoyed this protest, its drama, its fight against “big corporations,” and eventually, its outcome, you should also know that it wasn’t just big corporations who lost.  Big corporations on the other side of the fight won as well.

But more importantly, it’s important to know why they won.  And the answer is simple.  As much as the firms who fought for SOPA and PIPA control the vast majority of high-priced creative content (think top music performers, popular authors, and blockbuster films with huge special effects), the firms who fought against SOPA and PIPA control, or at least influence, the massive flow of user-promoted information and are seen as the facilitators of the social internet that so many of us embrace.

For this particular battle, the seeming majority of internet users were on the side of the Google/Facebook alliance, but there may come a battle that the majority of us do not support.  Unfortunately, we'll likely find that those who control the flow of information also control the scope, direction, and outcome of the battle.

The Internet is truly powerful.  And those who control the Internet are the ones in power.

Too much control may not be sensible...

Be sensible.
A little more reading for you:

Doctorow, Cory (2012), “Boing Boing Will Go Dark on Jan 18 to Fight SOPA & PIPA,” Boing Boing (January 14), <> .

November 15, 2011 letter to Pat Leahy, Chuck Grassley, Lamar Smith, and John Conyers, Jr from AOL Inc., eBay Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., LinkedIn Corporation, Mozilla Corp., Twitter, Inc., Yahoo! Inc., and Zynga Game Network <>.

Pepitone, Julianne (2012), “SOPA and PIPA Postponed Indefinitely after Protests,” CNNMoneyTech (January 20) <>.

Pepitone, Julianne (2012), “Wikipedia, Reddit Plan Blackout in SOPA Protest,” CNNMoneyTech (January 17) <>.

Schreier, Jason (2012), “Entertainment Software Association Drops SOPA, PIPA Support,” Wired’s GameLife (January 20), <>.

Simon, Mallory (2012), “Murdoch Launches Twitter Tirade against Obama, Google over Online Piracy,” This Just In (January 16), <>.