Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Free... As In Doughnuts

I know a guy who spends hours looking for illegal MP3s to avoid paying $.99

on iTunes. Some people are likely to prefer watching ads to paying for content

despite all the drawbacks. The point is not that advertising is

bad for everyone in every situation. But it is unfortunate that advertising is

so often seen as the best or only way to make money from digital wares.

It's worth remembering that ad-financed television came to the fore at a time

when no alternative would have been feasible. The technical challenges of the

day involved getting a decent picture on a 17" CRT without standing next to the set holding the antenna all evening. Subscription or pay-per-view models were not in the cards. Now we have the technology to meter and charge for content in many new ways, but we've gotten into the habit of expecting TV shows to be free.

One of the quirks of human psychology is that, once we get used to free doughnuts, we are enraged

by the idea that we might have to pay for them.

If we succumb willingly to disfigured television shows, psychological

manipulation and higher prices on SUVs and shampoo so that we can avoid paying a

few dollars for entertainment and internet services, we have no one to blame but

ourselves. When the most frightening hoax imaginable is that Facebook

will start charging users, we can hardly blame them for slathering more and

more lucrative ads onto their website. It would be fantastic if creative types

were to look for less intrusive ways of financing their work. But that is

unlikely to happen until consumers start to realize that free is sometimes the

most expensive price of all. And best told by interactive communication!

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