People confuse this with more serious privacy violations, such as data leaks [releasing sensitive or tracking information to third parties] and phishing [pretending to be a trusted electronic vendor to acquire sensitive information]. That’s one reason we have to be more diligent — to create a self-regulatory impact, so that we don’t provoke heavier government regulation, especially if financial and medical information starts to be gathered.
S+B: But governments seem to have to regulate the Internet more — just because of the potential for abuse.
CARRIGAN: The last thing a dynamic, employment-generating industry like ours needs is more government regulation. In fact, most governments are like the large legacy publishers in our industry. They need new approaches, and they need to make major investments in revitalizing infrastructure, but it’s hard for them to change. That’s why government efforts to regulate or manage the online world, or for that matter the financial world, have such little credibility.
If you look at the positive, job-creating innovation that has occurred in our business, it’s mainly from pure-play, disruptive companies that were enabled by the Internet. Something similar will inevitably happen to government. There is a huge potential in reducing costs, connecting users more directly to solutions, and displacing many old ways of doing things. But the U.S. government has by and large not adopted electronic technologies — even though it played a major role in creating them. Look at the problems with e-voting, sharing healthcare information, and the postal system. Look at political gridlock; Democrats and Republicans refuse to agree on anything. They need to learn that “coopetition” works, that the other side of the aisle is not always the competitor.
I understand that the transition is difficult. There will be hiccups, problems, and security issues. But the disruptions will happen anyway, either with the existing government’s involvement or without it. In the meantime, any efforts to regulate privacy from outside will inevitably be so heavy-handed that they’ll block the economic growth they’re trying to foster. It’s too bad, because government could be a participant with us. But I don’t see how it can happen in the current political environment, where nothing gets done and pessimism reigns.
S+B: What major challenges will online media and marketing face next?
CARRIGAN: One big one has to do with integration. How do you corral all of these online activities productively for your organization? More and more users are saying to their IT departments, “I want this tablet to be my primary device. Figure out how to secure it and provide my e-mail and the company data on it.” Everyone is going to have to deal with this consumerization of IT. Lots of new companies will be created to provide solutions to this problem, but ultimately, it’s not purely a technology issue. The way people work is intertwined with the way they live, and we’re all going to have to grapple with that.
Another challenge has to do with the chaotic state of measurement in media and marketing. The IAB is working on developing neutral, third-party standards for metrics and measurement quality. Until we have a cross-industry agreement on how brand advertising should be measured, sold, and bought, it will be very hard for electronic commerce and sponsorship to roll out in any effective way.
It’s very difficult to make these types of changes, and I think if there’s anything special about electronic media, it’s that we sense the inevitability of change. We feel it. But even with us, there’s a hesitation. It’s natural to hope that things will stay the same, but in this environment, they rarely do. I think when we look back, three or five years from now, we’ll all regret that we didn’t move more quickly.