The Great Compromise: Ads for Free Content?

MobHappy asks the question– will people accept ads in exchange for free content.

In general, I think the answer is absolutely not. Here are the 3 reasons why not:

People want less ads and will go to great lengths to avoid them.

Just about every piece of media equipment I have is designed to avoid ads. TIVO, DVD Player; XM Radio; DirecTV satellite service; anonymous call blocker on my phone, caller ID on my cell phone; email spam filters; voice mail at the office. Almost everyone I know has a similar fortress protecting them from people who want to sell them something. Large companies are founded on the basis of protecting privacy, which for purposes of this conversation means…no ads.

There will always be too much other similar content available without ads.

Even if you have to pay for it, it will be deemed worth it. I can’t imagine what sort of content it would take to get me to agree to hear or see ads to get it. Just about everything I want to see or hear is available to somewhere without ads. I may have to pay a little more, but I am happy to pay for an ad-free life and so is almost everyone I know. After having XM Radio for a few years I literally cannot imagine listing to one second of ad-infested, over the air radio. I’d rather listen to nothing.

Even if we would accept ads, it would be the ineffective kind.

I don’t mind unobtrusive ads on web pages. But I have never, once clicked on an ad banner that wasn’t on a page I owned. Never, ever. Not one single time. And I bet there are a lot of others who could say the same thing. So if you want to put an AdSense ad or a banner on a web page, I don’t care. I won’t notice it and you’ll get very few clickthroughs. Add pop-ups or unders or, even worse, those irritating mouse traps and I’ll never return to your page.

The bottom line is that the cost to get permission from people to bombard them with ads would be more than any realistic revenue model could absorb. Pay for my gas for a year, and you can send me a few ads while I drive to and from work. Give me a top of the line Treo and service for a year and you can send me text message ads. Nothing that will fit in your pro-formas will be enough.

Advertising in its traditional sense is dying along with its original home- the printed newspaper. People don’t like ads and people don’t like other people dreaming up new ways to force advertising on them.

So if you really want to make some enemies, start tracking people via GPS and spamming their cell phones.