'WSJ' Tosses Cookies

What does The Wall Street Journal have against cookies? While interactive ad industry types try to circle the wagons around their beloved tracking cookies, the Journal has gone on an all-out, anti-cookie offensive. First Walt Mossberg, the Journal’s influential and curmudgeonly tech guy, fired off a diatribe against cookies two weeks ago, calling many a “Big Brother intrusion.” This elicited many indignant responses (here’s another one), including one unlikely suggestion that the Journal has a grand conspiracy to halt the march of online advertising because it is eating into its own ad base. Today, the online version of the Journal devotes 1,479 words to Web users pissed off to find analytics firm Omniture’s cookies on their computers, with the admittedly sketchy file name 2o7.com. The story quotes concerned customers that worry Omniture might compromise their financial data since they track site behavior for clients like Ameritrade, even though cookies don’t collect that kind of data and only track Web browsers, not individual users. Anyone involved in advertising should be concerned about the backlash, whether deserved or not, against cookies, which are needed to show relevant ads and figure out what marketing works. But publishers and advertisers have never explained this to Web users, content with the idea that “people don’t care.” But there’s no doubt many consumers do care and are increasingly deleting cookies that track their behavior, which is bad news if the future of advertising is targeting customers with relevant messages.