People love talking about how much they hate ads, and how, no, they're not cheap, they would totally pay for content.
Let's be honest - internet users are cheap. They want stuff for free. And if site A starts charging, they will jump ship to site B, until eventually it's a race to the bottom.
Ads seems to be the only model that works (thus far).
Many attempts have been made to monetise things (a la micropayments).
I believe Google did something before, where you paid cents, or fractions of a cent to authors for article views. This was back in 2012:
And recently Mozilla's Brendan Eich is doing Brave, with bitcoin micropayments. I'd love to see it gain traction, but I don't see it going mainstream.
Look, I know some ad networks go too far - but IMHO, Google/FB ads are hardly that intrusive. (I personally hate pop-up/pop-under ads, and auto-playing videos)
(Disclaimer: I work for Google, but not in ads - above opinions are purely my own).
Most articles/videos on sites like HN fall into this category - I wouldn't have paid to read this article for example. To me, this comment thread is worth much more than the article itself and I don't see anybody here upset that they aren't getting paid to comment.
I guess that means that I would probably pay a subscription fee to a site like HN but that I wouldn't generally pay for the content itself, which does seem a little backwards. Still, that's what's valuable to me. Does anybody else feel this way or am I weird?
For some reason comments are often more interesting than the articles themselves, and people never think of monetizing their comments. Somehow karma is enough of a reward.
If I had to watch an ad for 30 seconds or pay $0.25, the proceeds of which would be distributed to commentators by proportion of karma they earned in the comment section ... I probably wouldn't bother.
It doesn't make much sense to me how I arrive at these utility valuations though.
I'll readily buy the ad-free version if it's any good, and I have the track record to prove it.
I've completely given up trying to control the torrent of spammy apps (games) on my son's IPad. His next device will be an Android.
There's some really valuable info on the net: medical research, good product recommendations, educational materials regarding hobbies and work, etc. I wouldn't mind paying for them(and i do buy some books), but most of these are free, or availble via places like sci-hub.
As for the rest, which is basically enterntainment - i can't imagine no good free alternatives for those - hey, there are many blogs from people who aren't professional writers who offer much better content than the pro media.
I wish there was a search engine focused on the best of those - i feel it would improve the internet by so much.
Let's be honest - many websites are after monetizing whatever they can. They want content cheap to produce. And if readers don't want to buy it, they'll sell your attention and your privacy to advertisers, until eventually it's a race to the bottom."
So.. to me, the opposite holds true. If lets say I was interested in reviews on some technical product I wanted to buy - I would definitely prefer to have a lengthy article that goes over all the details rather than a comment thread which might detail one tiny slice of their experience with the product. So maybe if enough people comment, I can waste some time reading them all and cobble together a larger slice in my head, but again, its tedious, its just easier to go to a single source that has already done it.
Maybe what we really need is better curation than the current voting model.
There are 3 problems with this statement.
1) There is a lot of free content, easily found, and content gets more rapidly out of date nowadays. Paid content must deal with this (newsworthy, in depth competition).
2) Your view is US centric; the vast majority (read: not all) of internet users from other countries generally have less money to spend.
3) The cost of loss of privacy is indirect, therefore hidden, and US companies generally get away with it. This is why data mining is currently profitable.
In order to solve #3 shit must first hit the fan, to increase awareness. #1 is solved by collectively putting the high quality content behind paywall. #2 can in theory be solved by globalisation in long-term. Short-term, dynamic price makes sense, but it makes #1 & #3 worse.
Let me quote the rest of your statement:
> [...] They want stuff for free. And if site A starts charging, they will jump ship to site B, until eventually it's a race to the bottom.
Agreed, except for example for (local) newspapers who also provide online access as part of their sub. Global newspapers have more competition. Especially given the widespread English language.
> Ads seems to be the only model that works (thus far).
For Google, yes. For privacy, no. In apps on an unrooted Android device, yes. On recent iOS and desktops, no (the latter 2 due to ad blockers).
Also, streaming media such as Spotify proves a subscription in a new market (not newspapers) can work. Netflix proves it for video.
> And recently Mozilla's Brendan Eich is doing Brave, with bitcoin micropayments. I'd love to see it gain traction, but I don't see it going mainstream.
Not yet a final, stable non developer version released AFAIK. Also, Eich is no longer part of Mozilla.
1. There is a lot of free content - yeah, the internet is full of free content, but much of is click-bait garbage, or re-posted a billion times. Let's be honest - true, honest-to-goodness original journalism costs money. Good writing costs money. Investigating journalism costs money. Getting people to actually go out into the real world, and interview people, or write about stuff costs money. Who's going to pay for that?
Pick up an article from the New Statesman, or The Economist, or The New York Times - compare that to the offal you get on Buzzfeed, or one of the billion other click-bait sites.
When all those actual journalists go out of business - you'll get everybody coming out of the woodwork complaining that they can't get news, or it's all just PR puff-pieces from companies, or sound-bites from political spokespersons. And people on the internet will whine that <insert random politician> is corrupt and only got elected because nobody could be bothered reporting on politics. Or that everything they read is beholden to corporate or political interests.
2. Your view is US centric - I'm not from the US, so I'm not really sure how to respond to this. Or are you just assuming, because you're not from the US, and it's convenient to erect a strawman?
Or are you saying there's poor people on the internet? Sure, I'm certain there are. In fact, there's poor people without access to access to computers, or the internet either. I suspect those people probably don't care (yet) to read articles from The Economist, or New Statesman either.
I'm specifically addressing people who access these sites, and still want to access them by blocking ads, or circumventing their anti-ad-block. So please don't erect some strawman, or turn this into a "Oh, but I'm poor! Please, give me free stuff!" plea. Poor people have do have problems and deserve compassion - but being able to get free articles from Forbes, or Wired probably isn't their main concern.
3. Cost of privacy is indirect - I see this as market forces. As in, if people don't want to do a normal "I pay a dollar, you give me a newspaper to read", then newspapers need to find other ways to monetise. I do have issues about that - but I certainly don't see either side as particularly clean in this fight.
That said on the matter of independent (read no advertising) investigative journalism publishing online the number of available spots are limited and the first to move will seize the better place on the market. Look at how mediapart.fr established itself in France and how many stories they get out compared to the other newspapers. They are a success established on initial funding giving no power to the funder and now entirely paid by the readers.
Lesson here is there are people willing to pay and support a truly independent online newspaper, the demand is here and the old newspaper who are dependent on ads and controlled by who has the most shares are not fulfilling it.
Investigative journalism is in its death throes, and it's not because of lack of money. It's because of lack of interest from audiences.
Nowadays, journalism is all about who breaks the story first. This is why people are saying (only half-jokingly) that we live in a "post-facto" world: investigating leads and verifying facts take a lot of time, during which your rivals might publish the story and get all the eyeballs and therefore ad money. And if they get the facts wrong, or the entire story ends up being incorrect? No one really cares, because by then everyone has moved on to the next thing that is demanding their attention.
>>Pick up an article from the New Statesman, or The Economist, or The New York Times - compare that to the offal you get on Buzzfeed, or one of the billion other click-bait sites.
Buzzfeed is known for clickbaits, but it has some honest-to-god excellent long-form articles. Here is an example: https://www.buzzfeed.com/suzannecope/up-in-the-air-with-caro...
From what i gather so far, they're doing a wonderful job and expanding rapidly without losing money. I think there's plenty room for initiatives like that in specific niches as well.
My impression of NYT and The Economist and such is that while they're trying, they're still way too tethered to an older model which, among other things, requires more money for (relatively) more crap. And while on behalf of good journalism I lament the period of turmoil as they fight their fight but eventually disappear, I think it's necessary for more targeted, leaner journalism to take over.
How do you explain the success of vice?
But the actual point you were arguing was: Is it legitimate to block ads and/or circumvent paywalls? What about the poor? or non-Americans?
The latter two aren't actually new situations for publishers – they have actually always operated in 0-marginal-cost environments, and have therefore developed strategies to capture any "consumer surplus" they can get. For those cases, there has always been country-specific pricing as well as discount schemes. Most common are probably student discounts, but you can also do price discrimination by making people jump through hoops to get discounts, essentially trading time for money. That's the principle behind supermarket coupons.
Regarding your technical scenarios: You're trying to do some legalistic hair-splitting, in a discussion that isn't even about legality but morality. I hope we'll get to the point where people realise the importance of professional, traditional print outlets, and see that they can obviously not continue to exist without our willingness to spend some money. I'm rather pessimistic on the former ("yeah I browse the NYT on the loo but it's not worth anything and 15 years ago they were wrong about Iraq WMD and I rather read bloggers from all sides of the spectrum and do the synthesis myself and even learn about Pizzagate and no I don't have a problem with run-on sentences").
The media still has to do its part, as well. I regularly do a shallow read of 10 to 15 publications. I'll happily spend 200$ per year for the privilege, but I haven't found anyone willing to take my money. I'm not going to pay that amount for a single publication as my parents have done over decades.
I'm spending 10$/mo on music now. Before, I had bought maybe two CDs in my entire life. But so far, publishing is blocking "streaming" to protect "CD sales".
It would be interesting to try an ad-blocking program that has an exception: if this article has been written by the journalist who did all the work(or something close to that) , he can show me ads.
Let's do a run down of my monthly online spend.
Hulu premium: $11.99
HBO now (or is it HBO go?): ~$12.99
Sling TV: ~$50
Google play (includes YouTube red): ~$13
Amazon prime (also used for the Amazon TV shows): ~$9
A random Twitch show that I patronize: $6.66
Wikipedia: I donate $10/year, so let's say $1.
So, roughly, ~$125/month.
I use Tumblr heavily and the ads piss me off, but the moment they offer a premium ad-free option they can shut up and take my money.
This way, it provides site owners with an incentive to remove their advertisements when they see they could be earning a higher amount from user donations. Also, users are more likely to donate, because their donations are encouraging site owners to drop their advertisements, and their payments only go to those that share their vision, and remove advertising.
Web users are not cheap. They expect stuff to be free because this is what the web has been designed to: sharing knowledge for free between people. But truth is it is not free, we are paying through privacy invasion and the reason for both of these is google. Google provides whatever you want with no immediate price to pay, though we actually pay in the end, and you can compete with google especially since google has established dominance.
The reason I say we pay in the end is not obvious but self-evident when you think of it, google gathers personal profiling data, exploits it to sell ads paid by advertisers, advertisers include the price of advertising in the product, we buy the product thus paying for the content in the end. The trick is we may have bought the product anyways though now we pay a bit more to pay the advertising costs. That's how we pay google to provide us with seemingly gratis stuff.
> Ads seems to be the only model that works (thus far).
You're starting with a bad assumption. There is a model that worked for years even before this assumption became rampant: do not expect revenue by having a website or webpage that is not an online shop. example: www.debian.org
Then if your content is good enough your audience will pay for you to make more, see the dice tower getting its funding on kickstarter , or the webcomics with patreon, and so on. The point being, there are models that work to get a revenue from publishing online outside of ads, but you need a sizeable audience first.
Ad networks have not "gone too far" -- the whole system is broken, with malware entering 3rd party ad exchanges and fake users browsing fake publisher sites to steal ad revenue (https://whiteops.com/methbot). Google facilitates and profits from all of this.
Don't be distracted by intrusiveness, however bad and block-worthy. Tracking required by ads whether intrusive or not is the higher priority. It enriches a few and loots user data, if not exposing them to malware then abusing them with retargeting, online to offline breaches, and the like. Third party ads and tracking form a system that is stiffing publishers year over year, leading to eventual ruin.
Brave is 3-6x faster than Chrome on Android and not just by blocking ads: blocking trackers is required and those scripts and the "programmatic waterfall" or "header bidder wrappers" or other such junk are to blame.
TMZ Brave Shield results: https://twitter.com/BrendanEich/status/820166880778256384
Brave vs. Chrome on Android: https://twitter.com/BrendanEich/status/820082887194120193
The problems with ad networks are too big to go on for very long. Poor user experience, Ad fraud, malware, the indiscriminate gathering and selling of user information. It's just a matter of time 'till everyone has a adblocker.
The ad networks are just waiting for premium content (eg ESPN) to go programmatic. The cable networks who own that content are slowly wearing down. Once those floodgates open there will be a whole new arms race.
You can't say that micropayments doesn't work when ads ARE micropayments. They're just micropayments with a particular set of properties.
The only question remaining is which of those properties are necessary. Is it actually necessary that your nickel causes an ad to be displayed, or is it just easier and the way we've organized things so far?
So, no, it is by no means a micropayment. And even if I were charged for overage, and I were over my monthly limit, I wouldn't be charged at a rate of $1 for 20 MB.
Not having readership is one thing - but people who still want your content, but refuse to pay, or view the ads, well that's another.
I respect people who don't view sites like say, the NYT, or WSJ or The Economist etc. because those sites show ads. Or that won't buy the hardcopy magazines because there is ad space.
What I can't respect is people still trying to view those sites and defeat their anti-ad-blocks.
Or who complain about how link-baity the articles on HN are, or why there are fluff pieces here - but don't think, hey, good content costs money
I suppose if those sites went the way of intrusive, pop-under/pop-over ads, I might chance my tune - but on the whole, I've found the text/small image ads so far on them a reasonable exchange.