The Big Story: The Summer Of Bummer

The Big Story podcast

The ongoing war in Ukraine, a stock market collapse, the overturn of Roe v. Wade and a raft of other Supreme Court rulings are combining to make 2022 a true bummer of a summer.

This isn’t the first dystopian Big Story episode, nor will it be the last, says Allison Schiff. But this week we go “full tinfoil hat” to speculate how apps, online platforms, tech companies and publishers will be affected by the SCOTUS ruling on Roe.

The loss of a constitutional right to abortion means that state laws come into effect that criminalize the act of even seeking an abortion. Medical professionals can be sued or prosecuted for providing abortion support and doctors must wait for a judge’s approval even in what they consider to be emergency or life-threatening situations.

Technology companies are sitting on data that could be incriminating in those circumstances, and now must walk a tricky tightrope between protecting their users, obeying state laws and honoring police subpoenas.

What does all this mean for publishers?

Well, the news is a difficult beast to feed and to monetize.

Other recent SCOTUS cases, such as a ruling striking down environmental regulations, not to mention the war in Ukraine, have made advertisers more skittish with their online ad budgets than ever.

But advertisers that use broad brand safety, suitability or contextual tools to filter inventory – sure, why not just block any article with the word “bomb” or “abortion” in it? – are being pressed to think about a more nuanced approach and to make conscious decisions to support news coverage of important topics.

Programmatic and digital media companies must think hard about how their technology – and their content – can and should be used to empower (or at least not endanger) their users.

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