Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Advertising Privacy The Media News

Ziff Davis Secretly Paying Sites To Track Users 53

Posted by timothy
from the memo-this-user-knows-too-much dept.
First time accepted submitter jonez450 writes "Times are tough in the advertising business. But PCMag publisher Ziff Davis has come up with a new plan to gain a competitive edge: Paying other tech sites $1 CPM to place tracking code on their sites in return for data about their users via JavaScript. The company is also offering free content in return, but the 'private' Ziff Davis Tech Co-Op doesn't want anyone to know what they are up to." Update: 09/15 13:32 GMT by T : Reader jbrodkin writes in with an appreciated correction: "Ziff Davis doesn't publish PC World. they do something called PC Mag. as a former IDG employee, I can tell you there is a difference ;-)" Story has been updated to reflect -- thanks.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ziff Davis Secretly Paying Sites To Track Users

Comments Filter:
  • by ge7 (2194648) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @08:52AM (#37408456)
    It's a lot better offer than Google gives. In return to tracking all the users on your site, Google only gives you statistics about them. At the same time Google can track 95% of the internet - including slashdot.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not me, sorry.
      NoScript is your friend.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Don't forget the power of combining it with specific entries in the HOSTS file, as well as AdBlock+ and Greasemonkey scripts, allowing you to block the sites you don't want your computer visiting as well as clearing shit off websites that you don't have any interest in such as the facebook/twitter "I like this" links.

        It's nice being able to 'take back the web' and filter out the noise from the signal.
      • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2011 @09:16AM (#37408610)

        They don't need to know about you personally to understand the demographic you belong to, that's all they really care about. They've got someone else to watch who has the same consumptive habits aside from NoScript. You're anonymous inside the aggregate or anonymous behind NoScript. They don't need to know about you personally to have a good idea about how you behave in the areas they care about.

        It doesn't really matter unless you're a Muslim looking for a religious charity, and in that case it would be the state observing you, not ZD, and they have much better tools than the proliferation of some stupid JS.

        • by plover (150551) * on Thursday September 15, 2011 @10:28AM (#37409366) Homepage Journal

          Not quite. NoScript provides for the transparent absence of most third party trackers. Its users are really in "the blind spot" of these firms, as nobody is gathering complete metrics on their surfing habits. They can't.

          You may want to assume that NoScript users behave in the same way as non-NoScript users in the same demographic, but you can't be sure. After all, most NoScript users are concerned about their privacy or dislike intrusive advertising, and are self-selected people who better understand browsers and technology. This places them in their own demographic. The average NoScript user is further along the educated axis, which generally translates to people with higher wages and more disposable income. It includes early adopters, technology trendsetters, family experts, business technical experts, etc. These are desirable customers, the exact sort of people they'd love to influence with marketing.

          And what kind of things are they missing out on? They want to know where technically literate people go for information before making a purchase. Do they visit epinons, ConsumerReports, eBay, Google shopping, or Amazon reviews? Other sites? All of the above? Do they stick to the first page of Google results? Do they trust Amazon reviewers more than NewEgg reviewers? Do they prefer to shop by price, or to buy from retailers with higher reputations? That's information you can't get by looking at a single retailer's results. If you don't know how they got there, you don't know what factors to influence to get others to show up.

          Ultimately the marketers are trying to understand what kinds of astroturfing they can get away with. NoScript makes their job much harder. And as long as they can't identify my abilities to spot SEO trickery, planted reviews, etc., it means I personally get results that are somewhat more honest to me, and are less biased by the marketing firms. At least that's what I'm choosing to believe at this time.

          • obviously a bot.
          • by Nyder (754090)

            ... The average NoScript user is further along the educated axis, which generally translates to people with higher wages and more disposable income. It includes early adopters, technology trendsetters, family experts, business technical experts, etc. These are desirable customers, the exact sort of people they'd love to influence with marketing.

            ...

            Where did you exactly get this information? Seems to me, your making it up, to prove a point.

            Of all the people I know that use NoScript, they are the lower income bracket, usually not college educated. They can't afford fast computers, and don't have "disposable" income. And yet they use NoScript. How do I know? Because I've taught them to. I took the time to show them the basics of keeping there computers safe, and most of them grasped the concept.

            Now, the other people i know, that won't insta

          • There are plenty of ways to track people that are on the server side instead of the client side, so noscript can't prevent everything

            • by plover (150551) *

              Really? How many sites post IP addresses, cookies, and referrers of clients and URLs to a third party server for aggregate analysis? If I buy a FooWidget 2012 from Amazon, how do they find out that I read some positive reviews of FooWidget 2012 on slashdot before buying one? How do they know that I checked on ifixfoowidgets.com for the latest info on FooWidget reliability? Those sites are participating in omniture and google-analytics and quantcast and sitemeter and crazyegg. If they are doing it all s

  • by jbrodkin (1054964) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @08:58AM (#37408496)
    PC World is published by IDG. Ziff Davis published PCMag.
    • by lseltzer (311306)
      Parent is correct. Admittedly this story is up to /. standards, but the editors should fix the post. Parent is wrong about "published". PCMag isn't in print anymore, but is still a busy web site [pcmag.com]. Disclosure: I have written for them for many years and run the Security Watch blog [pcmag.com].
      • by jbrodkin (1054964)

        Parent is correct. Admittedly this story is up to /. standards, but the editors should fix the post. Parent is wrong about "published". PCMag isn't in print anymore, but is still a busy web site [pcmag.com]. Disclosure: I have written for them for many years and run the Security Watch blog [pcmag.com].

        Well, as an online writer I use the word publish to mean anything published online or in print. Hell, I read all my books on the Kindle now. Anyway, I used to write for IDG so I noticed the error right away.

    • PC World is published by IDG. Ziff Davis published PCMag.

      Confusingly, ZDNet isn't run by Ziff Davis either. (It's run by CNet, which is now owned by CBS).

      I still appreciate Ziff Davis for one thing: In the days before the WWW or even Minesweeper, when things got boring at work, a good way to kill time was to grab a copy of PCWeek from the break room. I could spend a good part of a morning reading it cover to cover.

      (Of course, times have changed, and now everyone can kill time by posting their very own pontifications for the world to see.)

  • How do I sign up? I want to make money from doing no work.
    • I assure you, making a website that gets enough visitors to buy even a pack of beer per month using this method takes plenty of work.

      • by kyrio (1091003)
        Not really, with the amount of uniques I get on my sites I'd be able to get a few cases of beer every month.
  • two words (Score:2, Informative)

    by madbavarian (1316065)

    chromium + ghostery

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @09:11AM (#37408592)
    ...where is the marketing value in tracking the demographic band that covers people too witless to block such things (cookies, random javascript, etc.). Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that value is there. I'm just intrigued by what one would do with it. Surely the marketing people for that publisher realize that they've built in that demographic skew through... Oh, right. "Marketing" people...
    • by six025 (714064) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @09:18AM (#37408632)

      ...where is the marketing value in tracking the demographic band that covers people too witless to block such things (cookies, random javascript, etc.).

      They are the perfect target for such marketing. The type of user more likely to purchase an off-the-shelf solution, rather than "roll-your-own" ;)

      Peace,
      Andy.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      That's the most valuable demographic. The dim-witted are easy marks.

    • by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Thursday September 15, 2011 @09:20AM (#37408650) Journal

      ...where is the marketing value in tracking the demographic band that covers people too witless to block such things

      We call them "politicians."

      Politicians call them "voters."

      The general public calls them "What are you talking about?"

      The web sites call them "revenue."

      The advertisers call them "warm bodies with wallets."

      The regulators call them "... zzzZZZzzz ... Huh? What are you talking about? ... zzzZZZzzz ..."

    • by Riceballsan (816702) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @09:36AM (#37408748)
      The demographic of people too witless or lazy to block, would be almost everybody except a handful of geeks and tinfoil hats. We are in a world where over 40% still use IE despite it being clearly inferior and more work then the alternatives. Noscript is still a pain to use, so we are still looking at a handful of people who actually use it. The bottom line is the 1% that they are leaving off also, is most likely the least likely to be influenced by marketing percentage on earth. Geeks tend to look for things when they need or want them without being influenced by a comercial, they tend to then search for the closest thing to an unbiased review they can find before purchasing, thus making them not the wisest use of marketing dollars to waste time targetting, and the tinfoils, well they probably think the products being advertised are government mind control rays.
  • Wow, good thing I use NoScript to block all incoming JavaScript crap and just whitelist the sites i trust. I would recommend others to do the same (and no, i am in no way affiliated with the firm).
  • Is that so many sites are so cross scripted/integrated these days that sometimes you have to allow places you otherwise wouldn't in order for content to display. Nobody hosts their own content these days, esp. media.

    • Use RequestPolicy instead. It allows control of cross-site requests with domain-level granularity. So only sites you trust are able to gain access to domains like amazonaws.com, akamai.net etc. It basically has the same features as Noscript's ABE, but is much easier to use.

      https://www.requestpolicy.com/ [requestpolicy.com]
  • by Dynamoo (527749) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @09:25AM (#37408690) Homepage
    Seriously.. so what? Plenty of sites out there collect analytics in this way, often only in exchange for access to that data (e.g, Google Analytics, Quantcast). ZD's offering is only notable because they are prepared to pay for it, which will certainly give them a leg-up in the market.

    I think this is harmless. What is worse is those ad networks (you know the ones I am talking about) that regularly allow tainted ads onto their networks. Or sites that don't patch WP, PHP or other installations properly. The list goes on.

  • What's the difference if say:

    A) You go to a site, and its privacy policy says, "we collect anonymous data and sell it to advertisers".
    B) Same thing, except the advertiser collects it directly.

    These sites that are willing to sell the data are, surprise surprise, already collecting it. But rather than selling it out as a CD set, they will sell a direct pipeline.

    The names have changed, but the game's the same.

  • Well I think they can now forget that idea.... Lets slashdot it...

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

Working...