Look I’m all in favour of Tim Berners-Lee’s idea that the World wide Web should be free for everybody but sadly there are too many people out there today who insist on screwing it up by riddling the useful content with shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating advertising! It’s got so bad that I’m coming round to the idea that for some things I’d actually be prepared to pay a monthly fee to make these damn pieces of time-wasting crap disappear!
..and don’t think I’m not talking about you Spotify – you’ve got the nerve to take my money and then send me crap about new releases by those artists who are able to pay you enough to invade my privacy on their behalf!
There are a number of aspects to this…
- what am I prepared to pay for
- how much will I be prepared to pay
- why online advertising is so shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating.
Let’s start with the “What”:
The birthplace of the web was CERN – Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. See that…the sharing of information. And the definition of sharing is?
No mention of charging for it anywhere is there? That came a lot later when less pure minds that Sir Tim’s decided that all these people provided an opportunity to make money – and lots of it, shed-loads of it in fact – big huge aircraft-hanger sized shed-loads of wonga! And like me, Sir Tim’s not a happy man, although his beef is probably purer than mine which is just about advertising. He’s more concerned with the rollback of net neutrality protections, the proliferation of fake news, propaganda and the web’s increasing polarisation!
“Gas is a utility, so is clean water, and connectivity should be too,” said Berners-Lee. “It’s part of life and shouldn’t have an attitude about what you use it for – just like water.”
So what am I prepared to pay for?
Stuff that I want to consume – stuff that entertains me like music, (that’s why I pay Spotify each month for a service I can’t stream to my hi-fi because the quality is designed for mobile phones and my GigaClear 50MB broadband is so flaky – and the router is a piece of poo! – that streaming hi-res is a non-starter!) and I’ll happily pay Amazon for the ability to read a book while I’m on holiday (Agios Stefanos NW Corfu since you’re asking!) or maybe to stream a movie as part of my Prime subscription – that’s cool, I’m happy to do that.
But I won’t pay for news!
That should be part of Sir Tim’s original idea about sharing information. The WWW is meant to be a tool to enable us ALL to understand what’s going on in the world, to bring us closer together (yeah well done Boris you twat!) and generally make the world a better place. However I WILL accept a limited amount of advertising to get this as I realise that information providers (except the BBC and I already pay my licence fee £150+) aren’t charities – they need to make money to pay their staff! But I won’t pay them a subscription as it’s not worth it – not to me anyway!
And how much will I pay?
Well, this is more of a case of how much am I already paying!! If you total up your household outgoings on things like your TV licence, SKY, broadband, mobile phone data, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc etc you’ll be amazed by the figure you get to. I reckon I’m spending over £1,000 per year! And I’ve cut back! It’s easy to spend more than £1,500, maybe even £2k!! OK, don’t be pedantic, I know that SKY tends to be delivered over satellite – it’s the overall cost of accessing content that’s important here!
As these things are pretty much standard across UK households today, and with the average take home pay of <£21k per annum, you’re likely to be spending over 7% of your annual income on this stuff – maybe as much as 10%. Now 7% may not sound a lot but imagine if your salary was cut by 7% – how much harder would that make life?? Exactly!
The huge expansion of the digital world has made it particularly hard for some companies, notably newspapers, and apart from the rag that is the Daily Mail they aren’t really succeeding (The Mail was always full of small ads anyway so it was a natural development for them, and their readership). And I’m not going to help them by paying to get past their firewalls while the likes of Twitter are around – it’s quicker, more opinions so you can read both sides of an argument and of course it’s free – except for the sneaky ads!!
In fact it’s Twitter, or rather another player in the arena of social media that provided the straw that has broken the camel’s back – so to speak.
So I’m now at the stage where I would be happy to pay for access to certain social media applications (it begins with a “F”) in order to avoid bloody advertising – if nothing else I’m sure the saving in blood pressure medicine would offset it!! (Relax that’s just an analogy I’m not on beta-blockers or anything similar)
So, why is online advertising so shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating?
….to the extent that now I’ll even pay to avoid it!
Well let’s go back to a bit of online business 101.
First off, if you’ve got that great idea, you want everyone to know about it and the web is really helpful here, as it allows you to reach a lot of people. Let’s say these people like your great idea and flock to it – hey presto you have what is called in the trade “an audience” or lots of “eyeballs”. So whereas people used to have to stick posters up in the street, things developed as people could get newspapers to print stories about their great ideas which other people then thought, hey if they like that maybe they’ll like mine to so I’ll make sure information about my great idea is in there too. Next came TV which offered an even bigger channel to the audience and even more people started to “advertise” their great ideas, although now there so many great ideas – they weren’t all great!
With the growth of the web a number of great ideas got really, really, popular – like billions of people popular! And the people who owned these great ideas thought to themselves…hmm I can make money out of this – it’s called “monetization” by the way! So they started to allow advertising on their great ideas.
Look at possibly the best great idea ever – Google! Originally just lists of stuff that matched your search term. Then 3 “sponsored” results appeared at the top of the page. Today? Maybe on the first page you’ll be lucky enough to find 3 “natural results” amongst the 20+ “sponsored” ones – that’s what Google calls advertising btw! And Google make a massively, gigantic shed-load of money from it – as do some other great ideas.
What they also do is get make of these ads pop up on other websites you might visit – and have you noticed the order in which websites load? The site’s branding is followed by all the adverts and only then does the content you actually wanted in the first place appear – naughty, naughty! In other words it’s highly intrusive and hugely irritating!
But what about extreme irrelevance? Surely, you shout, they’ve got algorithms that make sure that the advertising you see is relevant to you! It’s true that if you search for something via Google or Bing (does anybody actually use Bing? And what a stupid name!) you’ll be bombarded with ads for whatever that was for ages – EVEN AFTER YOU’VE BOUGHT IT! How relevant is that? And let’s not even go into the activities of travel sites that rack up the prices if you leave and then come back!!
OK time to get to the absolute nub of this rant! Facebook, yes Marky boy this one’s on you, recently decided to make life difficult for their profile users.
“As of August 1, Facebook no longer allows third-party platforms to post to personal Facebook profiles. As a result, Hootsuite no longer supports scheduling and posting to personal Facebook profiles.”
They wanted to stop us using the likes of Hootsuite, WordPress et al to automate/schedule our posting to our personal profiles. They still allow scheduling to “pages” just not “profiles”. So what do I do? I choose to create a page from my profile, and to be fair it didn’t take too long to achieve that but once I’d “published” it, the troubles started.
Clearly Facebook believes that if you’ve got a page you’ve got money to spend, so they put an “advert” on your news feed (which only you can see) prompting you to spend money promoting your page. Now that’s fair enough, their business model is about making money so I let the first one go..and the second, and the third.
But when I realised that they were bloating my news feed with multiple – and here I mean it might be one of their ads every 3 real posts – adverts, on and on and on. Different creative suggestions but loads and loads and loads.
Now in amongst the reams of “help” they allegedly provide there is absolutely NOTHING about how to stop this. Basically I don’t think you can and frankly I’m, not prepared to hang around to see if they eventually give up, so I’m deleting my page – screw ’em!
I’m going to publish my content elsewhere, I’m going to prompt readers of my social media diatribes to read the content on other platforms and even though they won’t give a damn – I’ll feel a lot better – and that’s the important thing here 🙂
What would really help me, and I’m sure millions of other people, is if some philanthropist kinda person decided it would be really cool to provide an open source advertising free or a subscription based social media channel. I’m pretty sure that it would have a rapid uptake. If Camelot allows me to win the Euromillions lottery this Friday I promise I’ll have one built and if Sir Tim permits I’ll call it TimsWeb, or Tim’s Place or Worldies or something similar!