I have been thinking about the concept of free a lot recently, I am sure free is something people will become a lot more interested in as the world economy continues it’s journey down the toilet.
Take information as an example, the longer I have used the Internet the less I am willing to pay for information. I no longer have any of my magazine subscriptions and only buy newspapers on a very infrequent basis. All the information I used to get is available on-line free.
Someone still has to has to pay though. Hosting costs, bandwidth costs, staff and content costs on a high profile site can soon mount up. In the print world the money would normally come from a advertising and cover price, the lion share coming from advertising.
The Internet has removed cover price income and now advertising income is under the gun. Browser plug-ins like Adblock Pro remove almost all advertising from websites.
I recently tried the new Browser from Google called Chrome. I was impressed by its speed and snappy feeling but my finger soon found the uninstall link and the browser was resigned to /dev/null. I had forgotten how many adverts most websites carry. I have heard similar from others that tested Chrome. The Internet with adverts just sucks.
I know I should feel guilty about this and adverts are required if I want to keep access to my free content but I don’t. I started using advert blocking when I moved to New Zealand, a country where most Internet users suffer a 1-10Gb/Month data cap on their connection. If you filter adverts it saves a considerable chunk of bandwidth a month.
I am lucky at the moment because I signed up for an unmetered connection during the short time frame they were sold. Telecom pulled the product within months when they realised people use the bandwidth available to them and returned to their metered offerings.
So where does this leave the content provider, with less and less profit normally. As Firefox gains market share advertisers lose income. Adblock is listed as a must have plug-in so is hard to miss even for the least computer literate user. Advert blocking will only get more common as more browsers gain plug-in functionality.
This has to come to a head soon and sites will need to fight back or charge for access to cover costs. I have heard of sites blocking Firefox users because they could not detect advert blocking so just blocked the browser instead.
Advertisers are looking at new areas of income such as in game worlds, I just hope they learnt from the mistakes made with over zealous use of pop over/under adverts and look for a low impact solution. The trouble with the Internet is that when something is objectionable people just work around it.