Friday, November 24, 2006

It's An Ad Ad Ad Ad World

You may have heard the buzz about Web 2.0. The Internet is the computer. Everything will be Web-mediated, allowing you to share documents, spreadsheets, blogs and video clips with people scattered across the face of the globe. And it will all be free!

Well, not actually free. It will exact a price from you which is the most valuable commodity to marketers, and the one thing you can never recover once paid ... your attention. All Google and the other Web 2.0 pioneers want is some portion of your attention ... your ears, your eyes, and a share of your brain ... to give them an opportunity to sell you something.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to us. The entire broadcast industry has been founded on this principle since its inception. The programming is free, but you pay by having to live through the commercials, whether you watch them or not. It's like those timeshare deals where you win a free vacation but you have to spend a few hours in a locked room listening to a high pressure sales pitch.

Advertising has a sort of manifest destiny to completely overwhelm all of human experience. Billboards on highways, commercials on TV, product placements in movies, buildings and sports venues named for the highest bidder, newspapers and magazines with less than 50% actual content. Heck, even this blog has Google ads at the bottom.

Moreover, as technology makes it easier to skip ads, by fast-forwarding or pop-up blocking, the ads become more intertwined with the content, until it becomes impossible to separate them. Even now, there are marketing ploys in which people are payed to start conversations with strangers on topics that lead to product or service recommendations.

Qualcomm provided an interesting choice with its Eudora e-mail program. You could run it for free, but have ads placed on the screen, or pay for it and run it with no ads. This makes perfect sense. You get to choose. Evidently, this model didn't work for Qualcomm, which is now planning to make Eudora free and open source, a polite way of saying they're giving up on it.

In general, the free/fee model will succumb, and you will be subjected to advertising whether you pay for your content or not. Then all content will be just a way to attract attention to the ads. Your books, movies and music will all have paid plugs woven into the content. So-called news reports will be thinly disguised industry or government promotions. Even scientific research will be "owned" by sponsors who will dictate the findings.

Oh wait! This has already happened.

Sorry I couldn't make this funnier.

No comments: