2022-08-17: Collaborative Study Highlighting the Importance of Web Ads Funded by IMLS

Drexel CCI and ODU WS-DL will be collaborating in an IMLS-funded project to study web advertisments.      

We are pleased to announce that a new collaboration between Drexel University College of Computing & Informatics and the ODU Web Science and Digital Libraries (WS-DL) Research Group has been funded by the Institute of Library and Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the amount of $149,479. The two-year project, "Saving Ads: Assessing and Improving Web Archives' Holdings of Online Advertisements" is led by WS-DL alumnus Mat Kelly with WS-DL's Michael L. Nelson and Michele C. Weigle and Drexel CCI's Alex Poole as co-investigators.

This work will focus on the preservation of online advertisements in the past and help to inform methods going forward. Online ads have a similar, if not great cultural significance as print advertisements. For example, embedded ads for masks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020 depict social norms of a time in much of the same way as ads for Camel Cigarettes did in 1946. However, major public web archives are failing to capture many embedded ads in their archived pages.

Contemporary advertisements on the web are indicators of cultural significance much like those from print media of the past.

We have proposed to study the gap by analyzing the need for and feasibility of archiving advertisements that are embedded in web pages. This will entail an assessment using mixed methods to learn what aspects of online ads future scholars might be interested in studying.

Through this two-year project, we will produce two data sets of online advertisements and their archived contexts to be used for further research. We will also produce a quantitative baseline for which sorts of ads were or were not previously archives and provide a qualitative assessment of the significance of the missing ads. We anticipate this work to be the basis for future larger scale studies to highlight the cultural impact that online advertisements have had in the past and will in the future.

For additional information on this project, please see our detailed project narrative made publicly available by IMLS. We are grateful for the support of this project by IMLS and looking forward to widely disseminating the results in the future.

—Mat (@machawk1)