Filter bubbles: Treating the symptom, not the disease

It’s a truism to say ads have the potential to pierce the filter bubble. Furthermore, that potential is predicated on a single factor: scale. By that logic, Android “might be the [best] thing that can pierce people’s filter bubble at scale.” There’s no insight in such a penetrating glimpse of the obvious. Instead, I’m more curious whether or not you think ads will pierce the filter bubble — and why…?

FWIW, I’d say “no” to ads (and Android). The least targeted ads in the entire ecosystem are CPG spots, and even they target broad demographics to some extent (e.g. “moms” or “football fans”). The entire digital ad space relies on targeting — from programmatic to AdWords. The offline world relies on its own breed of data — from Nielsen data to focus groups. Regardless, every medium is about appeal: resonating with a target market; not defying it. As rare as they are, even guerilla tactics like “shock value” appeal to some ethos — having carefully calibrated that ethos’ tolerance.

Don’t over-index to the Super Bowl — an availability heuristic that represents a tiny slice of the ad market . Yes, the Super Bowl is a unique opportunity for brands to reach the entire known universe en masse, but even then, ads are intended to appeal to either the greatest number or a passionate niche. Don’t confuse populist, “positive human stories” with contrarian content that pierces the filter bubble. There’s the important upshot: by our very nature, we disregard that which defies our worldview, our ideology, our interests.

This isn’t to suggest that we’re powerless in the face of the filter bubble. This isn’t to say that polarization is irrevocable. Rather, I’m critiquing your notion that consumers do not self-select ads, because we very much do — just via reverse inquiry.

That’s important to acknowledge too. Due to our aforementioned nature, the problem is a lot more complex than creating or distributing “positive” content. The problem is in the transmission mechanism: how do you get people to internalize that which they don’t want to hear.

Too much noise in your news? Get straight to the point!




“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away...” 👉

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store