Advertising: the Web’s only business model

I had my first introduction to the Internet way back in 1996. We didn’t have it at home but some friends did and they introduced it to me. I saw my first digital nudie pic download pixel line by pixel line and built my first website that year. Yes, the website was one of those GeoCities atrocities that was packed full of animated GIFs and code that is now banned, but hey it was the 90s! Since that first foray right up until the present time I HAVE NEVER CLICKED ON AN ONLINE AD!

For someone that uses the Web almost exclusively as means of media consumption and communication for both work and play I would have thought that I would fall into some key demographic. Up until recently (read buying a house and having a baby) I was a cashed up professional with a squillion in disposable income. I’ve been male the whole time and in the 25-35 age bracket. Yet I have never clicked or even thought of using online advertising.

I have never bought anything based on an ad – and that can be applied to online, print and TV. I have bought all of my treasured and expensive items through content – you know, reading reviews, comparisons, opinions – getting actual information.

For that reason alone every ad on the internet annoys me. Every time an ad gets in the way of enjoying content it annoys me. I can’t watch commercial television any more, I can’t read the SMH website anymore, I can’t use the desktop version of Facebook and I can’t use the official Twitter app because of all the advertising.

I would love for my life to be advertising free. The problem is that advertising seems to be the ONLY business model that the web has managed to come up with. You see most sites, apps, services on the web never have a business model, they get up and running, get some users on board and then need a business model to get bought out or get more venture capital. When the time comes the only idea they seem to have is – “we’ll put ads on it”.

Fuck off the ads! How about you develop a product people are actually willing to pay for?

The web seems to have lost the concept of a quality product – the craftsmanship and most importantly time needed to develop it. The strategy seems uniformly to get the thing up and running and to have it sold for a suitcase full of cash in six months. Gone is the idea of the product, of building refining, of being off the beaten track because you can’t afford the rent, of building up and growing a business from seed to tree.

You see when you have a quality product people don’t mind paying. In fact if they are paying for a product, or at least more than their competitor, it usually means its because their is at least a sense of quality. Yes you may be limiting your market by making people pay but are you being realistic if you think the majority of people are going to use your product because it’s free? What you actually might find is that you will create the ‘right’ market by making people pay because you’re attracting people that are interested and invested.

If you let in advertisers, who are key decisions based on – users or advertisers? Does that conflict with the integrity of the product?

I’ll pay for a Facebook without ads.
I’ll pay for TV without ads.
I’ll pay for a newspaper without ads.

To me advertising has always seemed like an industry based on suckers and mugs. 99% of the adverstinging out there fits that model – the advertiser is sucked into paying a ridiculous amount of money with little tangible translation to sales and the customer is the mug being fooled in to buying the product because they are psychologically manipulated.

So let’s not let this just be a rant… how about some solutions, or at least some advice?

  1. Have a product worth paying for. Don’t waste your time on ideas that encapsulate a trend, are cool or because you can sell it to Google or Facebook. Make something that your Mum would actually pay to use – that’s a real good test!
  2. Polish counts. Buff and shine that product before you release it. A product can be irrecovably damaged if its subpar. Use ‘free’ to test, but make it clear you will be making it paid once your up.
  3. Pay referers. Good reviews are great, not good as in high marks, I mean good as in authoritive and truthful. A good review can make a sale so pay the person or company and make it worth their while.
  4. Let people pay or subscribe to get ads removed. As I said, I don’t want ads, let me not have them!
  5. Make business pay for a service, let customers use it for free. Think the yellow pages, then think bigger!
  6. Be realistic. You are never going to have 100% of users or 100% of a market – so do some math and work out what’s feasible. Go in with a business plan and how to make a profit, if it needs phases then build them in and know when to pull the plug if it goes awry.
  7. Don’t suck people in with free and then switch to paid. Be up front – if they will need to pay in the future let people know, damn it ask how much they would pay! Get to know your users because they are the heart of the business – with out them you can’t make a profit, from them or from an advertiser.
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2 thoughts on “Advertising: the Web’s only business model

  1. Could not agree with you more. I would pay to have add free content. Could we throw pay tv into the mix? By the way “Media Technologist” is indeed an awesome title.

  2. Oops – I’ve got a new title in the new year, I’m now an Innovation Technology Officer – updated my profile. Cheers! Yeah Pay TV is a weird one – so I’ve bought the content, and now I still have to watch ads?? Hmmmm

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