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“Let’s End Online Advertising!” How Then?

September 8, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 9.38.24 AMThe Atlantic Magazine article, with ad supporting it

Working in online advertising, I’m accustomed to backlash from people who think what I do is bad for the Internet. While there are no doubt plenty of bad ads on the Internet, I’m happy to defend online advertising. From Google search, to Facebook to I get access to great ad-supported products.
The Atlantic Magazine has an article that calls for the end of Internet advertising. The author is Ethan Zuckerman who is director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and principal research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab.The article is The Internet’s Original Sin. It’s not too late to ditch the ad-based business model and build a better web. Zuckerman concludes:

20 years in to the ad-supported web, we can see that our current model is bad, broken, and corrosive. It’s time to start paying for privacy, to support services we love, and to abandon those that are free, but sell us—the users and our attention—as the product.


The article reads like it was tiring to write. There’s a simple answer if ads bother you. Install an ad blocker. If enough people run ad blockers the people who wrote the article or created the app will have less money but it’s a choice. If it bothers you that other people are seeing ads and you think instead they need to be paying money to read content it seems to me that you are nosy. Or if you have a solution to the problem then start a company, raise money. Surely there are many advertising driven companies that would work with you if you could replace their ad dollars with dollars from your new business model. As it happens I worked at a company that wanted to get consumers to pay for content. Border’s Books Louis Borders started the company called KeepMedia which would charge people $20 per month to read content on the Internet. It and other models really haven’t worked.

Zuckerman’s answers are to point to Bitcoin and a Reditt program for micro-payments. He dismisses ad models such as Facebook’s as “Investor storytime.” In other words sites make so little from online ads the only way they support it is to raise money from investors. It seems to me that the ad model that Google and Facebook work on is in fact working very well and is not Investor Storytime. I’m willing to bet that another twenty years from now the ad-supported model will be even healthier.




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