Monday, June 22, 2020

Covid and Internet Ads

If the world is going to hell, it certainly is taking its sweet time!

First a word about ads.  Most people are not even seeing them, as they use adblockplus or some other form of ad-blocking software or browser.  This begs the question, why would advertisers even pay for ads then?   And it struck me that like the Nigerian scammer e-mails, this acts as a filtering agent.

Many have wondered why Nigerian scam e-mails (or craigslist scams) are so poorly worded.  After all, won't people spot these as cons from 1000 yards away?  And it isn't that the scammers are poor in English skills, either.   Inadvertently or not, they discovered that the more poorly worded e-mails generated better response rates.  That is to say, the people responding were far less skeptical and thus better "marks" for the "con".    A well-worded e-mail might snare a smarter person, but once they got the pitch to send money, they would drop out, wasting the scammer's time.  Poorly worded pitches result in better responses and more efficient use of their time.  It is a way of filtering out skeptics.

Similarly, with internet advertising, most people who are fairly astute install adblock plus or some sort of browser with these capabilities built-in.   As a result, they never see the ads.   Maybe right there is why so many internet ads are for scams or lousy deals - the only people seeing these ads are those lurching across the Internet, changing lanes on the information superhighway without signalling, and jamming on the brakes randomly (and spelling it "breaks" - ugh!).   So adblocker and the like end up as filtering agents - filtering out the more clever readers, and as a result, the ads are aimed at people not smart enough to install adblock, and thus are pushing scams.  Perfect feedback loop.

As for income, well, it is negligable, which may motive me to end this experiment early.  $1.24 a day?  To whore my readers?   I don't think so.  Not even enough to buy a cup of coffee at the gas station (but enough to make five cups at home!):

Income isn't squat with Infolinks - at least so far.

At this rate, the most I will make is maybe $500 a year at this - far less than the $2000 a year I was making with Google AdSense - with far less intrusive ads, to boot!   So I may pull the plug on this experiment, as poor Joe Biden will end up with only $50 to add to his campaign coffers, at the rate we are going.

Some of the ads, as I noted, are for some odious deals.  I was pleasantly surprised to find Eyebuydirect on the site today.  I did a piece on them (and no, I am not paid for that!) and they did deliver good glasses for the money.  Some readers point to other places with better prices and without all this BoGo nonsense couponing that Eyebuy uses.  But I have had several people ask me, "say, those are nice glasses, they look good on you!  Where did you get them?" which rarely - if ever - happened to me before, with glasses from Walmart or the wholesale club.   So I am pleased at least one ad is from a "legit" company, anyway.

By the way, I turned OFF adblockerplus on my browser, for my own site, so when I review the site (which I have to do, as HTML does weird things and you think you are typing one thing, and it comes out in a weird font when it appears online, or the formatting gets lost, or images go bonkers).   I figure if you have to look at the damn ads, I should, too.

But getting back to the Corona Virus, are things really going to hell as the media says they are?  The politcal cartoon below is typical of the media attitude as to how things are going - to hell in a handbasket and it's all Trump's fault!

Slide 3 of 58: David Horsey/Seattle Times
Never get statistical data from a cartoonist!

People are talking about cases of Covid-19 "spiking" in America.  Is this really happening?  The charts above in a political cartoon would seem to be damning.   And yet, that is a politcal cartoon.  Other sources differ.

This chart shows that infection rates have been fairly level over time, increasing slightly in the last few days.

The recent slight increase in new cases is indeed cause for concern, but hardly a "spike" just yet.  And as President Trump says (throw up in mouth a bit) when you increase testing, you get increased reported cases.   He is right about that, but then again a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Meanwhile, the death rate declines:

This chart shows the death rate steadily declining, reaching a new low today.

What is going on?  The death rate today (256) is almost the same as when this whole thing first started.   What is going on, I suspect, is that treatments for this disease are improving.  Blood thinners are reducing the blood-clot induced heart attacks and strokes, as well as lung blockages.   Certain steroids are showing promise as treatments.   Doctors are not sitting idly by and doing nothing (which was pretty much all they could do, early on) but are trying new treatments, and they do seem to be working.   Maybe also, the very old and infirm have gotten the word and are isolating and the infection rate, while rising among the young and healthy, is declining among the elderly and infirm.

Now granted, all of this data could be suspect.  We had "free testing" here on the island, but only a handful of people went to get tested.  Given that those who test positive are treated as pariahs (even weeks later, after they recover and test negative) you can see why.   So there may be a lot more cases out there - in fact it is certain - than are reported.  Similarly, the death rate, particularly the historical one, may be higher, as many people dying from this had blood clots in major organs (heart, lungs, brain) and dropped dead suddenly, but were never tested, so we have no way of knowing whether they were killed by the virus or not.  Many people argue the increased death rate over the historical levels should be used to track the virus.  Maybe that is another good metric, too.

All these things are possible.  What is certain is that the media is discussing none of this.   You don't see these charts in the news.  All you see are cumulative infection charts and death charts (which always are going up, up, up by their very nature).  Where the cartoonist is getting his numbers from is hard to parse - are those infection rate charts?  Death rate?  Testing?  What is the X-axis?  Y-axis?  The scale?  Have infections in Germany, Spain, and Italy really dropped off to zero?  I doubt it.

Why the media refuses to discuss this is obvious.  Well, first, complex information is hard to communicate - people find it boring and they turn away, which pisses off advertisers.   Second, bad news sells, and if you put up an article saying "Corona Virus infection rate is spiking!" it sells newspapers.  If you put up a headline saying "Corona Virus infection rate spiking in irresponsible red states that are relaxing restrictions!" it sells a lot of copies of the New York Times, the readers of which consider New Jersey to be the far, far lands.

The sad thing is that we are at a time in our history when people really need hard, accurate data - about everything.   We live in an information age, and yet some people sincerely believe the earth is flat, vaccines cause autism, aliens are being kept prisoner in area 51 (and not illegal aliens, either) and so on and so forth.    Truth has been replaced by truthiness, facts with alternative facts.   And both the left and right seem to indulge in this alternate reality.

Obviously, my monetizing the blog is what caused this latest Covid "spike" as the two events were nearly simultaneous, and as we all know, correlation is causation!  For the current generation of journalists, this makes about as much sense as anything else!