Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I DREAMED I SAW "HELLO DOLLY" IN MY MAIDENFORM BRA: We don't even pretend to be an expert at knowing what goes on once we type these words. The computer's internal processes to the computer and what goes on once we cut-and-paste the text into the "Blogspot" software is a mystery only Agatha Christie- or an IT person- could solve.

We tried to keep up. In high school we got to play around with a 40 feet long"paper tape" computer that, if you programmed it just right, could play tic tac toe. But years later we spent an entire semester learning "DOS" only to have it become obsolete as we handed in our final exam so we decided to concentrate on the user side and leave the operational stuff to the techies.

But one thing we have come to understand as a user of the on-line universe is that the "everything you ever wanted... for free" days are fast coming to a close. Even newspapers- from the New York Times to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser- have gone to putting up "paywalls" and, after some sputtering false starts and stops, it looks like the much reviled fee system is here to stay and probably expanding.

The one thing that's keeping some stuff "free" (as much as anything is ever free) is advertising. But, if the much ballyhooed "individualized" advertising that companies like Google are promoting to their clients is an example of the future, it's no wonder that on-line advertisers claim they aren't getting their money's worth.

Two personal examples should illustrate why, even at fractions-of-a-penny-a-click (assuming pennies don't outwear their welcome soon) data-mining is not all it's cracked up to be.

Recently our favorite do-gooders at Malama Pono Health Services held a contest on Facebook offering two free tickets to their "Kaua`i Sings Gershwin" event (aw, how cute- our first "plug"- this Fri., Sat. and Sun. at the Kaua`i Coast Resort; call 246-9577 for info and tickets) to the first to answer the question "What is the latest Gershwin play on Broadway and who are the stars?!"

Having been born a Broadway Baby- no, not the fur-wrapped, dance-the-night-away, Broadway Lullaby type but the kind that, at the age of three or four got hooked after being dragged to see South Pacific- we'd heard about the Porgy and Bess revival with Audra McDonald, one of the all-time Broadway greats, and had even seen a couple of numbers from the production on TV.

So we hurried to Google to look up the other stars. It was an action that still haunts us almost a month later.

The answer Porgy and Bess was actually wrong because it turns out that the success of P&G led to another Gershwin revival, that of Nice Work if You Can Get It. But damned if we're not reminded of our our decision to search for who was in Porgy and Bess every time we go on-line.

It doesn’t matter which website we go to, what articles we read. Nothing we do can escape the flashing banner ads urging us to buy tickets to Porgy and Bess. Morning, noon and night, tiny blogs to the international press and everything in-between: it's "Porgy and Bess Tickets- Get Tickets Now-Click Here" virtually screaming across the top and down the sides of every other page.

This includes the aforementioned Honolulu newspaper, although you'd think they'd also have an ad for a time space portal to go to New York to use the tickets.

But in one way the Porgy and Bess ticket ads have been a relief- at least we're not being hounded to buy long underwear any more.

About two years ago we heard from our grandson at school in northwest Pennsylvania who was going through what was at the time called the "worst winter ever." And being the attentive "spoil 'em rotten" grandparents we dutifully Googled "Long Underwear" and ordered two pair of their top-of-the-line thermal long-johns and matching tops from Hanes.

So of course for the next two years- until finally replaced by the Porgy and Bess ads- every ad on every web site beckoned us to return for more Hanes long-johns.

Now being a good American, we're used to being advertised to death in newspapers and on TV. It's second nature to tune them out. But at least there's an awareness that advertising must be working or "they" would have given up years ago.

But how this supposed to "work?" Even the fact that there's no "human element" to all this shouldn't leave them in the dark as to the fact that they are adverting to someone in Hawai`i who is NOT going to Broadway plays in their thermal skivvies- and is not likely to do so any time soon.

If "data mining"- tracking searches and using them to individualize what ads people see- is what companies like Google and Yahoo! are counting on to make on-line advertising profitable enough to keep things "free," we'd better all get ready to pay through the proverbial teeth for the content we've become all-too-accustomed to getting "gratis."

Unless of course we buy a lot more mail-order underwear. Oh, and about that time-space transporter...

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