Dean Group Media: OMG! Where’s Waldo?

If you haven’t been to Waldo, lately, or ever, you might want to spend a few nanoseconds touring Wisconsin’s famed micro-tropolis before it’s eliminated. In May, Waldo will be no more.

Actually, Waldo will still be here in Wisconsin. And you should be able to find it by instituting a thorough search in Sheboygan County. But according to Microsoft’s adCenter (sic), there will be no more Waldo, and thousands of other cities in North America, at least not on adCenter.

adCenter is Microsoft’s online advertising business and competitor to Google AdWords. Both companies post paid advertisements, along with search returns, when you use their search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo!

Waldo, many other hamlets, doomed
Microsoft, in an adCenter blog post on March 29th, declared that for purposes of “location targeting and to reach relevant customers and improve (advertising) campaign performance,” Waldo and about 10,000 other cities around the US and Canada will be “removed from adCenter targeting locations in May.” After that, advertisers trying to target any of the removed cities will receive the bluntly articulated error code: “The location target specified is invalid.” Advertisers will have to be satisfied with targeting the nearest valid community.

The decision begs the question: Why? adCenter’s Peter Yang says it is because these cities have seen no major traffic. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. I suspect what actually has happened is that no one in these communities opted to use the Bing or Yahoo! search engines, So adCenter considers them of no value.

Digital Dead Zone

No traffic in Waldo? Au contraire! Nestled on Highway 28, just a short distance west of the intersections of highways 57 and 29 in Sheboygan County, there must be traffic in Waldo! After all, the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation’s website profiles Waldo as a “moderately growing village with a mix of small businesses and residences.” The website says that in 2,000 the community had 256 residents, although other web sources list the community’s population much higher. Wisconsin’s Department of Administration reveals Waldo has 503 residents. Could none of these stalwart citizens own a computer or smart phone? Doubtful. They’re just not using search engines linked to adCenter.

So Microsoft and adCenter has put them all on the equivalent of a List of Doomed Cities.

Of course, what does Microsoft know? People in Waldo might simply be very private people. It’s entirely possible that every person in Waldo has turned off their browser cookies and subscribed to any of several web services allowing you to hide your IP address, the digital fingerprint Google and others use to spot you out the moment you use one of their search engines, and possibly sooner.

Digital Despair

My own fear is the psychological damage all of this may cause residents of Waldo and other doomed communities on The List. Now, when the famed question “Where’s Waldo?” is asked, Bing and Yahoo! will answer back with the equivalent of “Who cares?”

If Waldo is among the location targets specified as “invalid,” do we create an entirely new population of digitally underprivileged, a cyber second class, soon to be known as “The Invalidites?” Will the digitally deposed begin roaming the broadband landscape, seeking other forms of recognition, terrorizing those who are digitally recognized? Will new federal and state agencies form to provide digital counseling and other forms of assistance?

I doubt that Chenequa, Wisconsin, also on the list, will care. With most homes in the million-dollar-plus range, they’ve always been a pretty private bunch. But what about communities like West Milwaukee, Clam Lake, Fox Point and Jump River, all Wisconsin bergs and all doomed by adCenter? How will this play in Hamburg, Harrisville and Haugen? They’re goners, too.

The Gang of 196

Including Waldo, a total of 196 Wisconsin cities are on the The List. To learn whether your favorite Wisconsin hamlet (cyberg?) has been doomed, download my Doomed Cities list here: http://www.ittybittyurl.com/cr9.

Disclaimer

I haven’t actually spoken to anyone in any of these communities to learn their feelings. But I’m thinking about it. I may drive to Waldo soon to check reaction. Hopefully, they won’t kill the messenger.

The way personal Internet privacy has been crumbling lately, I have a feeling news of The List may cause a mad scramble among many communities, not to be removed from The List, but to be added to it.

Dennis Dean

You can read the entire adCenter blog here: http://www.ittybittyurl.com/cr8

Dennis Dean is Managing Partner with Dean Group Media, the creator of Story Vision Video and a former Emmy-winning journalist. He may be reached at [email protected], at 262-238-8740 and sometimes by shouting loudly.