New York Times Co. & Behavioral Targeting: When will the paper really cover the privacy and related threats?

The New York Times Co. has long been a leader in the online advertising field. But it has consistently failed to cover/meaningfully report on the implications of what it has been doing and intends to now do. The emergence of online advertising is one of the most important stories affecting our society, in my opinion. More than privacy is at stake, although that issue should be at the forefront of our concerns. We have spoken to reporters and others at the Times about the lack of coverage. We believe that there is a major problem at the paper seriously examining this issue (which, frankly, the paper shares with other major news organizations that also use behavioral targeting technologies, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal). As we have stated before, the Times Co. is also on the executive committee of the board running the key online advertising issue trade lobbying group working to protect the industry from criticism and policy safeguards.

Yesterday, the New York Times Co. announced a partnership with behavioral targeting firm Revenue Science. The release from Revenue Science explained that: “Revenue Science, Inc., offering the most widely adopted, powerful, and flexible targeting platform for digital media, today announced that The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) has selected the company to provide its best-in-class behavioral targeting capabilities for, and

The addition of The New York Times Company increases Revenue Science’s roster of leading media brands, which includes the Wall Street Journal Online,, Nikkei Net and Reuters. Revenue Science’s ability to reach high-value audiences makes it the industry’s premier targeting provider.”

Here’s what Revenue Science says it provides its clients. Tell me, after reading it and other information on its website. Don’t you think it cries out for a very serious story, with continued follow-up? There also must be consistent disclosure from the Times and its news outlets as it covers the online ad industry that they are both politically and financially involved with the issue.
From Behavorial Science (excerpt): As a Revenue Science advertiser, you can take advantage of our Revenue Science Targeting Marketplaceâ„¢ with our Audience Connectâ„¢ solution. Audience Connect enables you to find key audiences for your message across thousands of sites in the Revenue Science Targeting Marketplace, using any of these proprietary targeting techniques:

  • Search Re-Targeting™—You spend a large part of your budget driving search traffic to your site. Once they get there, are they staying? How valuable would it be to reach them again? Now you can find out.
  • Re-Targeting™—Use sophisticated re-targeting technology to move your prospects through the buying cycle.
  • Reach—Segment and qualify people based on interests, behaviors, workplace attributes, geography, and results.
  • Behavioral Segments—
    • Revenue Science Behavioral Segments
      Revenue Science Segments enable advertisers to reach high-quality audiences across the Revenue Science network. Revenue Science provides marketers with access to hundreds of distinct behaviors within each segment. Our industry-leading targeting platform identifies the specific behaviors that best achieve your campaign goals and optimizes your campaigns to use only the strongest-performing behaviors. We offer segments in automotive, travel, technology and finance to name a few.”

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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