Ads are simultaneously an essential force in our lives and hardly in our lives at all. The paradox of advertising is that we spend most of our lives ignoring ads while we also spend hours browsing websites, reading articles, using apps, and “consuming” other “content” that could not exist without them.
That’s why it matters that our attention seems to be moving toward screens where ad dollars are struggling to follow. My business column* in The Atlantic magazine this month is on mobile ads: Why they’re so annoying and why it’s so important that they get better — not only for companies like Google and Facebook, who rely on digital advertising for 80+ per cent of their revenue, but also for the entire media industry that has grown fat and happy expecting that advertising would always be there to pay their salaries.
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