First I thought I was right, then that I was wrong and now I think I might have been sort-of right all along.
When the web took off some people believed micro-transactions would be the viable financial model for content. I didn’t, I believed advertising would.
Then, as the tech got more and more advanced and as ads were no longer sponsorships but instant negotiations in a race to the bottom, I realized that this was unsustainable. Only the biggest players would be able to earn enough to support their generation of content, which let to click-baiting, escalating fake news and much worse.
And now I realize that I was wrong to think of those two different things as the same. Advertising and adtech are not the same, even if the visual result is an ad. I had unconsciously reached this conclusion some time ago but it took me until I read Doc Searls’ article before I realized it. Here, in a shortened version (read the entire post):
- Advertising isn’t personal, and doesn’t have to be. […]
- Advertising makes brands. […]
- Advertising carries an economic signal. […]
- Advertising sponsors media, and those paid by media. […]
- Adtech is built to undermine the brand value of all the media it uses, […]
- Adtech wants to be personal. […]
- Adtech spies on people and violates their privacy. By design. […]
- Adtech is full of fraud and a vector for malware. […]
- Adtech incentivizes publications to prioritize “content generation” over journalism. […]
- Intermediators take most of what’s spent on adtech. […]
- Adtech incentivizes hate speech and tribalism by giving both—and the platforms that host them—a business model too.
- Adtech relies on misdirection. […]
- Compared to advertising, adtech is ugly. […]
- Adtech has caused the largest boycott in human history. […]
I was surprised by how big a cut the intermediators take with adtech (#6): 60%. That article explains further that another 37 percentage points is lost as well.
Searls ends his article with 4 tips which I will also quote in truncated form:
Pro tip #1: don’t bet against Google
Pro tip #2: do bet on any business working for customers rather than sellers
Pro tip #3: do bet on developers building tools that give each of us scalein dealing with the world’s companies and governments
Pro tip #4: do bet on publishers getting back to what worked since forever offline and hardly got a chance online: plain old brand advertising
Oh, and by the way, I think the Patreon model has shown itself to be a viable financial model. We will have to wait and see if it can remain so.