Is anyone else worried that there might not be enough advertising money to fund the internet?
By all accounts, the online market is STILL growing. Yet, right now, I am already sick of advertising covering just about everything I see online. Is it only going to get worse?
Be it apps, social networks or websites, everywhere is an ad. Advertising funds the internet. It funds Google, it funds Facebook, it funds Twitter. It funds newspapers online, blogs and more. It’s almost to the point where if you don’t have ads, it’s not a real site.
But it is lowest common denominator stuff. Pop up ads. Expanding video ads. Ads with sudden audio. Plenty of scantily clad ladies. Ads before videos. Ads before websites. They might as well hit you in the face with a coke can.
It is all about eyeballs and click-throughs.
Eyeballs is how many people see the ad. Click-throughs are how many people click on a follow through.
Which has turned the internet into one big game of eyeballs. And plenty of under-handed tricks are around to make you click on things just to add to someone’s eyeball count.
Take the Huffington Post. Possibly the worst site on the internet. Amongst the many under-handed and sly tricks they use is pumping out list after list that means nothing, just to get people looking at their ads. They are really, really good at it too.
Some topics bring in more hits than others. The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and Radiohead seems to draw bigger numbers, despite the value of the news. Constantly reporting about these topics, even when there is no news, makes more money than reporting on actual news.
It is not good for journalism. But it is how the internet has been running for years now.
Are we getting sick of ads? I know I am. In fact, many small ones I tune them out completely.
But ignoring them also leads to a worrying slide.
The more we mentally block out ads, the less we click on them.
The less we click on them, the less effective they will be (and… cheaper to buy too).
Meaning? There could be even more ads.
People say they want digital content for free – but it’s not free. It’s crowded with fucking ads.
You have artists like Tom Waits who take a hard stance against the use of their music for advertising. But when Waits’ music is already on Spotify, paid for by their ad clients, is there any difference?
And will anyone make a Tom Waits-like stand in the online world? Will any site with hundreds of thousands of readers refuse advertising on a cred argument? I’d like to see it but I doubt it. I think the online world has decided that ads are the way to make money.
And so we get to things like Content Farms. These are sites that are surrounded by ads, with one small piece of content. Say – how to tie a tie. Because people type those questions into search engines, you have these sites pop up and they will make money off someone.
Shitter still is the current run of “free” Apps filled with ads. Even when you buy games, some decide to show you ads as well.
Can anything be done?
I am toying with building a website naming and shaming annoying ads and boycotting them. Maybe it wont work, but I know I do it. But so far it’s all about dishwashing liquids and stuff where the audio pops up. Although if I was John Safran or the Chaser, I would go to the homes of these people and suddenly pump these ads at them at volume.
I am also careful where I click. It might seem stupid but I avoid shitty sites that are all about the ads. I also boycott the Huffington Post’s stupid lists. Or looks slideshow lists that make me click ten times. All these stupid tricks to get me to see ads.
I would list the sites but it might inspire curiosity in you, and get you googling.
But look out for these shitty sites. They use headlines like traps. They republish articles by others and hype them up to get traffic. You will notice them more. And if we all made a bit of an effort to avoid them, they wont grow.
Basically, the internet is moving away from the Encyclopedia Britannica and more like a Big W catalogue.
But back to my original worry. Is there enough internet money to go around?
How much stuff is there to advertise? It was a 2.3 billion dollar market in Australia last year. Will there ever be a ceiling? Or can we actually hit 5 billion? Or 10 billion? Is there that much to advertise?
Or if we hit the ceiling, what happens then? Then will there be even more underhanded tricks to get your eyeballs?
If we expand our number of readers, can we grow beyond a reasonable amount for anyone to advertise with? It’s the problem YouTube has. What do you advertise next to a cat video with 20 million views? What one product has any chance of appealing to 20 million people from such disparate places?
And then there’s the places they don’t advertise on yet. Like my operating system. Like my mp3 program. Apple’s iCloud perhaps? When the money runs out, you know some bastard will get there.
Hopefully the era of advertising paying for the internet will end before any of that happens. Google, Facebook, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo make billions a year in advertising. They are not going to let that go. But if there was just ANY other way to make money, we could solve this.
Which is maybe the first step of asking if the internet is free. People pay for Spotify to get rid of the ads. Or if a site takes a stand as ad-free, we should support them. And perhaps subscriptions is the future after all.
I don’t know. All I know is that I’m sick of being sold things every second of my online life. And it’s only getting worse.