Q: Because advertising revenue currently drives the biggest Internet innovations (and companies), your work in “policing” the Wild West of the Internet often finds you protecting advertisers–ranked near the top of every “least trusted professions” list–from being defrauded. Protecting advertisers doesn’t immediately sound like the work of a fair play advocate–can you explain how its effect ultimately benefits individuals?
A: When advertisers are cheated, the resulting costs are ultimately passed to all consumers through higher prices. Furthermore, when advertisers are cheated by rogue web sites (who didn’t actually show an ad or didn’t actually drive purchases), the advertisers have less money to spend at legitimate sites (which incur real costs in reporting and distributing the news).
You can like advertising or dislike advertising, but there’s nothing to like about schemes the drain advertisers’ budgets.
—Benjamin Edelman is an associate professor at the Harvard Business School. Some of his recent online investigations have shown how Google gave preferential search treatment to its own flight-finding service and how Blinkx may defraud advertisers. Ben holds a PhD in Economics from Harvard University, and a J.D. from the Harvard Law School.