Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Better Advertising Project Raises Millions For Its Web Privacy Seal of Approval

Online advertising plus privacy is a combination that freaks a lot of people out. For others, it’s a business.

At least, that’s the  plan for Better Advertising Project, a startup that wants to serve as Web advertising’s version of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. And now it has more money to do that, via a multimullion-dollar funding round.

Better Advertising says PE firm Warburg Pincus has led a $9.5 million investment round in the company, joined by some of the startup’s managers.

That’s a little bit confusing, because some of that sum represents convertible debt that has now become equity, and the company won’t break out how exactly much new money just showed up. But CEO Scott Meyer says the majority of the $9.5 million is new.

In any case, the money is earmarked for general corporate purposes, as well as potential growth in Europe, where Web privacy may well end up being a bigger deal than it is in the U.S.

For now, though, the company’s focus is in America, and on a self-regulatory program that all of the big Web advertisers and publishers, from Google on down, have signed onto.

Depending on how you look at it, it’s meant to keep advertisers and publishers in check, to inform Web surfers about what’s really happening to their personal data, or simply to keep the federal government from enacting more stringent rules.

If lawmakers and regulators don’t formally weigh in on Web ads, Better Advertising could be in good shape. It runs an “assurance platform” that’s supposed to make sure that advertisers and publishers are playing by the rules they’ve set for themselves. And so far it’s the only company that has the ability to let advertisers slap an “Advertising Option Icon” on their banners.

Participating advertisers pay a a fee of a “couple pennies” per thousand views, Meyer says. Initial clients include AT&T, American Express and Ancestry.com.

I’m skeptical that those icons will mean anything to average Web surfers, but the company touts research that says otherwise. The crucial audience, in the end, will be Washington.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work