Journal article

Valuating Words: Semantic Practices in Web Search Advertising


  • 29.08.2023
Published in:
  • Social Media + Society. - SAGE Publications. - 2023, vol. 9, no. 3
English Much like in traditional media contexts, advertising is a key source of revenue in digital media industries. One popular form is web search advertising, which is targeted based on words. But there has been little critical empirical research into how web search advertising is achieved in practice. Based on in-depth interviews with web search advertising professionals, this article examines how these professionals make sense of Google’s “linguistic capitalism.” It identifies three salient contextual factors that influence the valuation of words (locality, semantic footprints, and governance) and four semantic practices that advertising professionals mobilize to grapple with the meaning of words when (e)valuating them (attaching meaning, ascribing intention, algorithmic association, and measuring relevance). It also reveals the importance of semantic practices for the commodification of words, which depends on, and ultimately reaffirms, Google’s semantic power. Overall, this article contributes to the critical literature on web search and meaning-making in algorithmic media.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département d'Informatique
  • English
Open access status
Persistent URL

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