I hate ads. I really do. So much so, in fact, that I have gone to the effort of finding a tool which allows me to intentionally filter my web experience such that ads are no longer visible to me. Which is a shame. I would like to support all of the sites that I view which are funded by ads. But I can’t bring myself to do it.
Ads are worth practically nothing. For each ad you view, the person who’s content contains these ads is paid about a tenth of a cent. If I want to donate a dollar’s worth of ad viewing to the site, I would have to endure 1,000 ads. The time it took to scroll past those 1,000 ads is worth more than a dollar.
Which would mean that I am willing to pay you a dollar to remove those ads. Right? Wrong. I, just like everyone else who ever lived, am really bad at judging how much things are worth. I would not, in fact, pay that dollar, even if it was totally worth it. Which it is.
Ads are not the perfect solution; that much is clear. But then, what is?
How about a paid product - a one time fee to download something. That has certainly worked before (looking at you, Adobe), but personally, I’m not generally willing to pay for things. So your beautiful tool will never even reach me. That’s a shame, isn’t it?
You may or may not have noticed by now that I am really cheap. I don’t pay for stuff. And, I’m afraid, I’m not alone. For some reason, downloads and websites don’t feel real; they don’t feel like something we should have to pay for.
The dilema here is that we’re trying to make money, but in order to make money, someone has to pay us. And our users don’t want to. Advertising (which, as you may have noticed, I don’t think is a good solution) is an attempt to solve this. Instead of charging users, we’re charging people to put their ads on our site.
But nobody likes ads; is there a solution which can serve the same the same purpose but without being so annoying? Well… yes. Sort of.
The key is to understand that there is no one-size fits all solution. For every product or service, there is a way to make money that doesn’t annoy people. But it’s different in different situations. Let’s take a look at what is likely the best example there ever was:
Google, technically, makes its money off of ads. But it’s not the same as the annoying banner ads which are on every other website. Google’s ads are actually a part of the content. When you go to Google, what you’re looking for is a link to a site which solves your problem. Google’s ads blend into the actual content and serve the exact same purpose - to give you a link to a site which solves your problem. This is great! Google can make money from people who are getting exactly what they want - free traffic - while still providing an uninterrupted and free service to users.
Let’s look at this another way. Google, as a company, is providing a paid service to people who want traffic on their websites. That’s their main job. The secondary job - the awesome bonus added in for free by Google - is the regular search results. When you go to Google and see the non-advertising search results, all they’re doing is sweetening the deal. When it comes to making money, providing accurate results is not the number one priority. Providing great advertising is.
A better way to look at the problem is to find someone who is willing to pay, and make something for them. Let them pay you. And then, if you can, attach a free bonus for anyone else who happens to come by.
The internet will be a better place for it.