Tubes is a newsletter about tubes. Sort of.
The name, like most names, sounded way funnier in my head.
It’s the natural cycle: reporter gets job, reporter gets laid off, reporter starts a newsletter—and besides, enough of you have asked for one of these that peer pressure started to kick in. You could say this thing is part-newsletter, part-testament to how much of a pushover I am. Either way, welcome! Hi! Happy you’re here!
This is Tubes, a weekly roundup of the best (or worst) stories, blogs, Linkedin rants and performance art pieces pertaining to ads, privacy, or whatever else my goblin brain is currently fixated on. Maybe we’ll even do interviews or lil scoops in here! The Substack-world is literally my Substack-oyster, I’m just Substacking in it.
Why “Tubes?” First, it’s a very funny word. Second, it kind of makes sense if you think about it like this:
If you weren’t on the internet on 2006, these fresh beats spawned from a speech where ex-Senator Ted Stevens told the U.S. Senate—and the world—that the internet “isn’t a big truck,” and is, in fact, more like a “series of tubes.” The analogy made zero sense (even in the context of his speech), and served as the perfect meme fodder that still holds up in the modern era where your average Senator still can’t seem to understand basic tech.
But over the past few years I’ve been reporting on tech—and online ads in particular—I’ve started to agree a bit with ol’ Ted (on this point, anyway). If you squint hard enough, the ad economy is built on all sorts of tubes. There’s tubes that take money from advertisers, tubes that put ads on a given website, tubes that siphon data from the people browsing a website… It’s a lot of tubes. A series of them, if you will.
If you ask someone in advertising what “adtech” means, chances are they’ll show you this chart:
The Lumascape, as it’s called, has become kind of the industry’s go-to for showing newbies how dollars and data flow across different players. It’s also more than a bit simplified.
Here’s how I’d draw things:
Even that’s being a bit generous. The worlds I cover are mountains of jargon, shitty behavior and a few moving truck’s worth of black boxes. It’s become the norm for mountains of cash that vanish into thin air and for overt lies to pass investors without scrutiny—in part because it’s just the way things have always been, and in part because there’s a lot of frickin’ tubes. There’s close to 10,000 different adtech players out there (at least per the most recent tally), all plugging pipes into one another in various configurations, all in the name of keeping the internet chock-full of targeted ads. So, “Tubes” it is.
Will I change the name? Sure, if I’m peer pressured into it. The peer pressuring has already begun for a paid tier, so maybe I’ll add one of those, too. Maybe I won’t write anything beyond this, in which case I’ll just say: thanks for reading, and sorry it didn’t work out. If I somehow manage to keep pushing these out, just remember: you did this to yourself.
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Can't wait to read this
Tubes is a perfect name, I vote keep!