15 July 2009

Media: how AdSense mocks the fatties

Here's the primer: this blog uses Blogger. Blogger is owned by Google. Google makes money by generating advertisements automatically from whatever people type into their products, including Blogger. Blogger offers its users the opportunity to 'monetise' their blogs, which means that you can make cash by clicking a button that enables Google to automatically generate adverts based on the blog's content.

I am unlikely ever to click this button. For one, my blog gets modest traffic and I would probably make about £2.50/year, which isn't enough of an incentive to have adverts plastered all over the place.

But the main reason is that Google's AdSense algorithms are wack if, like me, you want to talk about critical fat discourse. This is because there are, and I'm guessing, approximately a kazillion online peddlers of fatphobia and weight loss, and hardly any businesses that might be supportive of critical fat discourse. This means that I could write an entry entitled 'A Pox on Weight Loss and Everything it Represents' and AdSense would insert a handful of ads for weight loss into the thing because there is currently barely a market for non-porny alternative products and services that could flourish under AdSense, or that Google could recognise and assimilate.

I know that I could make much better money out of selling weight loss than I can as a fat activist and scholar, but I value the integrity of my work, I don't want to undermine it, and I like to sleep at night. Even though I don't click the 'monetise' button, and even though I am the kind of person who would love to see every weight loss company in the world go under, Blogger can't resist trying to sell weight loss to me. I don't ask for these ads, but look at the picture accompanying this post to see what I got when I uploaded the previous post. Mofos! Leave me alone! I don't want your rubbish! I want to avoid scummy weight loss enterprises with every cell of my being, but my software won't let me and worse: it keeps forcing this junk on me, just like fat oppression in real life!

I have no idea how to get rid of this crap, the help pages are, as usual, little help at all, and Blogger might as well be generated by a robot given how impossible it is to talk to a real person who might be able to do something about this problem. There's no paid or free opt-out or opportunity, as with the devil's Facebook, to give a thumbs-down to things you don't want.

There's more. Both of the Fat Studies messageboards were plagued with weight loss adverts when they were first set up. Jezebel.com, which is a popular site that takes a largely critical view of diet culture, is also worth a mention here because its third-party advertising servers ensure that the site's banner advertisements often point me towards Weight Watchers and the like. I have told Jezebel about this and they are not happy, but they see different adverts in the US where they are based to the ones I see here in the UK and are probably unaware of the extent of the problem. Even my ancient hotmail account is offering me ways to lose 10lbs in a week, complete with dodgy graphics. This is the true face of targeted advertising, it means unwanted advertising, advertising as harassment.

7 comments:

Jess said...

You could switch to WordPress, which is ad-free AFAIK. although you;d have to change your URL, which is a pain...

Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks Jess but I don't want to migrate my whole blog and have a different URL. I just want to get rid of the weight loss crap.

wonderful woman said...

there's a whole slew of research to do into these '1 answer', '1 rule' weight loss ads. The 'obey!' one gets me. Not even subtle in the demand and control. It is a huge pain in the arse this ad thing. The only plus I ever see is that it is so totally wasted on those on the fat studies groups. It makes them completely redundant. But doesn't stop the annoyance of it existing of course.

busker.devil said...

I can't offer any advice about your blog, but if you use Firefox you can download an add-in called AdBlock. I finally snapped and installed it because I got tired of my hotmail telling me to lose weight. It works perfectly so far, and I don't have to be worried about being ambushed when I'm just trying to read my email.

Charlotte Cooper said...

WW - so totally wasted as to undermine the ad in the first place, but also really intrusive too. Ugh.

Busker - thanks, I think that I will do this.

Natalie said...

I recently had to take AdSense off my personal blog because I just started blogging about FA and HAES and found that I got a bunch of awful weight loss ads. I tried adding each advertised URL to my competitive ad filter but I'd add two more every day and four more would pop up. Often, I'd find that advertisers would subtly change the domain name - obviously when they purchased their awful urls they managed to secure a bunch of different but similar ones to get around AdSense's publisher directed filters!

Now there is one block of ads still hard coded into my site - I need to figure out how to get it off permanently because I think it really undermines any kind of fat or size positive message I try to publish on my blog!

I have been thinking about setting up some kind of site where I could share all the domains I blocked in my competitive ad filter for bloggers in a similar position. Though I wonder if the big G might somehow find a way to delete all my accounts in retribution :P

Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks for the warning Natalie.