Social Media Genius: If You Like Ambient Music, You’ll Like Games About Military Death Matches
The commercial superpower of social media is that it’s supposed to be able to gather massive amounts of information about our online behavior, analyze it, and then deliver commercial messages that are brilliantly targeted to a specific segment of the marketplace. The reality of social media algorithmic targeting, however, is something quite different.
That reality was shown to me by Pandora, the streaming music service that exchanges free music for advertisements that are supposed to be expertly tuned to the identity of the listener, as determined by the kind of music that they listen to. I was listening to a playlist of ambient music in the middle of the work day yesterday, so that I could concentrate on my tasks, when I saw an ad pop up on the Pandora music player on my iPhone.
The song I was listening to was called “Healing Circle”. The album the song was pulled from was called “Reiki – Hands of Light”. The advertisement was for Mobile Strike, a video game featuring the likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which the player bombs and shoots dead as many enemy soldiers as possible.
Pandora has been losing stock value and key staff in recent weeks, as news has spread that its business model of socially-informed targeted advertising isn’t as profitable as it was once promised to be.
An algorithm that targets ambient music listeners as likely purchasers of violent military video games may have something to do with that profitability challenge.