This Startup Wants To Take Some Power Away From Tech Giants

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Artificial intelligence startup LiftIgniter says it has designed an algorithm that can accurately predict in real-time what users are likely to click on next — a feature usually only afforded to deep-pocketed tech giants.

Being able to forecast what a person will select or browse is critical for online platforms like digital media outlets because it allows them to suggest new headlines to hold people’s attention (euphemistically known as personalization). Continued viewing leads to more ad dollars, the primary source of revenue for the industry. LiftIgniter’s main clients are in the media and thus uplifting more modest players as many organizations in the field, both big and small, have complained about Facebook and Google’s effective hegemony over digital advertising revenue.

The two tech giants are expected to grab roughly 63.1 percent of the U.S. digital ad spending in 2017 combined, an uptick from a prior estimate of 60.4 percent, according to eMarketer, a market research company.

Facebook and Google, in total, account for roughly 90 percent of the growth in new advertising revenue. The companies dwarf all other corporations in the industry.

Google, including all of the companies under its umbrella like YouTube, will garner $35 billion in total digital ad dollars in the U.S, reports eMarketer. If ultimately true, it would be an 18.9 percent increase from last year.

Facebook, including Instagram, will collect $17.31 billion, a huge 40.4 percent surge compared to the previous year. (RELATED: The Way Facebook Measures Ads Is Likely Misleading Business Partners, Perpetuating Ad Dominance)

The problem seems to have gotten so serious that both sides of the aisle have been constantly questioning if Facebook and Google (as well as others) have too much power. Media organizations, including giants like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, are banding together under the coalition known as the News Media Alliance (NMA) to earn more from the online advertisement revenue market. The group is petitioning federal lawmakers to provide them an exemption from antitrust regulations, according to multiple reports. Such a reclassification would allow media organizations to collectively negotiate with the two tech conglomerates, which is critical for trying to cultivate a larger stake in digital ad revenue, which many claim is being hogged by Facebook and Google.

LiftIgniter may tilt the balance back into a more even distribution, despite the fact that its machine learning team was born out of Google. It claims it can increase click-through rates by 80 percent with its technology, according to Tech Crunch, and isn’t too expensive for organizations and people to use.

If the artificial intelligence and ad revenue dominance by Silicon Valley behemoths like Facebook and Google aren’t kept in check, “the rest of the Internet will stop existing,” LiftIgniter CEO Indraneel Mukherjee told Axios. (RELATED: Google, Facebook Are Super Upset They May No Longer Be Able To Sell Your Internet Data Without Permission)

There are concerns that suggesting articles based on knowledge of users’ personal interest may fuel echo-chambers in which only similar viewpoints on news stories and topics are offered.

Mukherjee says while that may be a risk, algorithms that cause problems can also be altered and perfected to solve any potential problems.

“Ultimately the power is in the hands of the people,” Mukherjee said, according to Axios. “If we get corrupted, it will be a bad world. But it’s unlikely that all the small media companies will get corrupted.”

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