What’s the best way to follow up a post about how advertisements are poisoning the young mind of my sister? A post about why we should all allow ads. Let me be clear, I don’t like ads. I find them unpleasant at best, and toxic to our collective conscious at worst. So, why am I okay with them?
The internet might be the most incredible thing mankind has ever made. Not an original statement by any means, but I think it is worth reminding us all about how cool it is that a large amount of wires have enabled every member of the human family to contact each other and learn anything. This digital revolution has upended the world in the name of freedom, but we can’t expect the cost to also be free.
Of course we pay for an internet connection. We pay for wires to our house or else we pay for data from a wireless provider, but we have developed a certain expectation of free services online. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and a host of other free services are all available to anyone for free. Technically.
We don’t see the magic behind the veil, but all of these services are run by massive companies with huge amounts of infrastructure, and long payrolls of valuable employees. They need to make money and keep the whole operation afloat somehow. There are two ways to do this, either pay outright for a service like Netflix, or get it for free like, well, like pretty much everything else.
To make their service free, most websites, especially social networks and news outlets run ads to us. I don’t like it either, but I want access to these things and I have to pay with either money or by being exposed to ads, and I’d rather just see the ads. It would seem most people agree with me.
For evidence look at the success of free Facebook vs. the flop of freemium Ello. Or look at the success of mostly online news outlets like Huff Post vs. the struggles of print magazines. Consumers expect that these services should not cost money. If we want these services to stay around, we need to provide something in return. That’s the big issue I want to address here.
Adblockers like the simply named Ad Block Plus can make the internet virtually ad free. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t tried them out, and I would blaspheme to say the internet didn’t look a lot nicer that way. But I uninstalled because I don’t want to give up my highly limited funds.
A good deal of sites that I frequent, Wired, South Park Studios, among others, can detect the use of ad blocking software and make it a lot more difficult to use the website. Some would complain that this is unfair, but I actually think this is generous. I want to get free stuff, the fact that Comedy Central will let me watch the newest episodes of South Park without paying is kind of amazing. By the principle of bulk order, a lot of people watching that make them a couple cents will let this continue. Or I could go pay for the season. This leads to what I think of as the Spotify option.
Spotify has two options, the free version which has limited features, or the unlocked premium version. If you want to pay money and skip ads, along with other features, you pay money. If you don’t want to pay, you can just hear ads in your Kanye/Katy Perry playlists. Either way, the service can continue. This really outlines the ultimate choice we as digital citizens are left with.
Option 1: Pay up. This is simple, but I would argue that fragmenting the internet is bad for the overall health and ideology that underlie the internet. But it’s an option that exists.
Option 2: Stop blocking ads. I don’t want this either, it feels like the man is winning and that almost causes me physical pain. The use of ad blocking has been on the rise, and I want to keep my access to things without paying. That doesn’t work if too many people don’t buy in with me, and it takes a lot of people.
Even in an altruistic world where people will work for free, it costs money to even just run the minimal task of keeping the servers on. I don’t want to see the ads, but let’s all just grit our teeth for the collective good.