Sunday, March 27, 2016

On Ads and Paywalls

      There was a blog post I read today about paying for content that I want to talk about. The original post is here. The post basically complains about people on the internet who are unwilling to pay for the content they consume, either through pay walls or ad revenue.
      First of all, the complaints are valid. Since our society still uses money in exchange for goods and services in a capitalist meritocracy, no one should work for free unless they volunteered to do so. That being said, here are the problems I see with paying for every bit of content I consume on the internet.
     Paywalls: Paywalls seem like a logical choice to get people who dislike ads to kick some back to the creator of the content. But I've got to log in (or create an account) and enter payment info, then MAYBE I can get back to the content I was looking to read. But more often than not, the website I was on forgot what page I came from and now I have to search for the article or blog post I was trying to read. Ugh. Multiply this by every site I visit. Then there's the fact that I now have umpteen bazillion logins now and all the passwords that that would require. (Remember, we're not supposed to use the same info at every site.) Another issue is, the host of this content have it set up so that even if I want to read one article, I need to subscribe. Either monthly or yearly. That's great if the site offers other stuff I would like to read, but what if I only wanted to read that one thing. Also, I'm afraid I don't have the money to pay $5 - $15 everywhere I go. I suspect others are in the same boat (or just don't want to give up that Starbucks habit).
     Ad Driven Content: For me there are some ads I'm ok with and some I'm not. The type of ads that are in a newspaper: dead tree edition, I'm ok with most of them. They do what they're supposed to do without distracting too much from the content. Static banners or sidebar ads work too. Content creators talking about their sponsors at the beginning or end of a podcast or video are sometimes entertaining. Every other type of ad can go die in a fire. These type of obtrusive, blinky, loud things that interrupt the experience, make pages load improperly, and use my expensive bandwidth are the reason I installed an ad blocker. Yet they appear to be the majority of ads on most pages. I have my ad blocker set to allow unobtrusive ads, yet I only see 4-5 ads for every 10 pages I visit. Then there are the tracking cookies and mal-ware that come with some of these ads. I neither consented nor was told about the trackers. Nor do I get anything out of an ad agency knowing where I go and what I search for. It seems to me that these ad agencies are playing us against each other. Creators try to guilt consumers about not paying and ad blockers, while consumers bitch to creators about the shitty experience the ads are causing. It seems we need a new model.
     Patreon seems like a good idea. Viewers can give what they feel they can give to creators of their choice. It seems that everyone that a person gives to is put on a page where they can see the content with one login. The problem seems to lie with changing from a free or ad driven model to Patreon. People who are used to getting it for free don't want to change that. So perhaps it's smart to have two different types of content. Free people get ads, Patreon people don't. If people don't want the ads, you have provided a way for them to get around them. Patreon so far however seems to be more video and podcasts though.
     Possible solution: Now I don't want to just complain and not have a solution, so here goes. We need something for bloggers and journalists to get paid too. One without the user having to have eight billion logins, without having to pay for whole subscriptions if they don't want to. It should be a program or a web page that users can build their own aggregate portal of all the sites they read. Where if they click on it, the author gets a cut. Between a few cents and maybe a dollar, depending on length of the piece and popularity of the author. This is similar to how I understand song pays on the radio get paid, correct me if I'm way off base. Subscriptions would work the same as they always did, if someone pays the recurring fee they get all the content on that site. There could also be a button on articles that are behind a pay wall. Basically an “add this to my feed” button. Best of all for the consumer, they put in their payment info once and the payment comes out once per month with a page that allows them to track what they have read or watched over the month so far with the last few months available as well.
     I think it's a good idea. I'll give it away for free though because I'm unlikely to do anything with it. My programming experience is limited to half a semester so far of Java. I mean I can nest for loops and that's about it. Let me know what you think.