The unbelievably complex web of internet data collection has invaded nearly every home in America, and we as a nation have traded convenience for privacy once again.
If you were to take a look at the television economy, it would be fairly simple to understand and map out. Enormous corporations make expensive commercials and then pay exorbitant rates to networks to air them. These corporations then run hundreds of reports to determine where their best “return on investment” lies, tweaks their plan, rinse and repeat.
This means that networks who don’t work as hard to be entertaining don’t fare as well as those who do.
Now that we realize that, we must remember that the driving force behind the hyper-partisan news we see today are the cable networks who report on our current affairs, 24 hours per day. They, too, are on the hook with these advertisers, and are therefore beholden to the same rules of sensationalism and entertainment as the networks airing soap operas and professional wrestling.
What’s worse in this day and age are the data collection firms who study your behavior in order to optimize these advertisers’ efficiency.
They are paid handsomely for this information, as evidenced by the latest admission from an industry insider.
At CES, the Verge’s Nilay Patel interviewed Vizio CTO Bill Baxter, who told her that when it comes to the surveillance features of his company’s “smart” TVs, “it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV…[When it comes to ‘dumb’ TVs,] we’d collect a little bit more margin at retail to offset it.”
The remarks come in the context of the low margins in the TV market, which Baxter gives as 6%, and how companies like his are driven to seek out other revenue streams for their products.
But Baxter also implies that he doesn’t believe there’s a market for dumb TVs, even at a premium. This is certainly what I discovered last year when my family bought a house and went TV shopping: there were no panels large enough for my wife’s satisfaction (she’s a retired pro gamer and wanted a really big screen) unless we were willing to buy a set with several kinds of built-in networking and sensors that would put our home under surveillance.
If this doesn’t give you the heebie jeebies, not much will.