Get Select All in your inbox daily We have programmatic advertising to thank for the internet’s wealth—and privacy problems. And we have Right Media to thank for programmatic ads. Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times/Redux In celebration of New York Magazine’s 50th anniversary, this series, which will continue through October 2018, tells the stories behind key moments that shaped the city’s culture.

That was the start of Colonize, the company Jonah Goodhart and his brother Noah founded during the dot-com frenzy. Jonah’s list of internet deals turned into an irrationally profitable newsletter, as companies like Barnes & Noble paid the brothers commissions for referring customers.

Not necessarily paying customers, mind you. Companies wanted to show growth, so they didn’t try very hard to stop people from signing up, even multiple times with bogus email addresses, just to get freebies.

“There was something that clicked with us, which was, These guys are paying us to give away their stuff,” Jonah Goodhart says. “Which seemed crazy, and turned out to be crazy.” But for the moment, it was a gold mine.

Hundreds of dollars a week, then thousands. For two kids used to working minimum wage, it was intoxicating. Read more from…

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