December 20, 2017 ~ 2 min read

The incentives of advertising

I've always loved the advertising model of content businesses. Or at least, that's what I've told myself. I get to consume incredible content for free, at the small cost of wading through a few ads. And besides, I'm smart, so I can't be easily manipulated by an advertisement....right?

With the rise of the internet, we've also seen the rise of this advertising model. More businesses than ever are generating the vast majority of their revenue from advertisers. Just look at Facebook and Google, two of largest tech companies today.

Now however, we're starting to run into increasingly worrisome problems with this model. Information has become plentiful, but knowledge and trust is scarce.

"If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold." -Tim O'Reilly

Despite what we tell ourselves, no one is really immune to the advertisements that enter into our lives when we watch a youtube video, or scroll through our facebook feed.

But that's actually not the problem. I'm not against all advertising. The real problem is the incentives that this model creates for writers, youtubers, and podcasters. We spend half our time time on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) when we should really be spending that time on creating great content. We optimize for clicks and headlines that will grab attention, rather than optimizing for the value that we bring to the reader or listener.

Are these advertising companies to blame for the rise of fake news, and excess supply of listicles and clickbait headlines? Maybe, but I think it's only part of the problem.

The advertising model is failing us. The infamous Russian ads that had a significant impact on the 2016 election. We're only beginning to see the effects. Yet many of us still roll our eyes when we see a New York Times article behind a paywall. As consumers I think we need to be more willing to pay a little money upfront, in exchange for a big payoff in the future. We've gotten used to the advertising model, but that doesn't mean it has to stay this way.

As content creators, I think we need to throw out the advertising model completely. If your content is really providing value to the consumer, they should be more than willing to pay for it.

So what do you think? How much would you pay to avoid someone manipulating your thoughts?

Maxi Ferreira

Hi, I'm Taylor . I'm a software engineer/maker/amateur chef currently living in San Francisco. You can follow me on Twitter , see some of my work on GitHub , or read about my life on Substack .