There is no free lunch in information consumption

I’m always hesitating to systematic posts here in Medium, afraid not do the trick. But….

… This week I was surprised by a post on Facebook about the positioning of the Folha de S. Paulo, one of the biggest Brazilian newspapers, related to the reading its content on the web and the use of adblocks by readers. I think we have something to reflect here — the relationship of media vehicles with their potential readers in digital ambiences.

Positioning the case: Portal da Imprensa (a Brazilian webpage writing about news media) ran the information that Folha launched a strategy to add value to its advertisers, not allowing adblocker users to access the contents of this news brand, unless they are subscribers or, not being, must disable the blocker. See the full story here (

Among the allegations sheet, posted in that announcement, we see claims that “do quality journalism requires resources” and that “advertising is an important form of financing for the newspaper.”

It is true that it’s impossible to produce quality content without the contribution of resources, valid for the whole global media scene. The incensed report “Post-Industrial Journalism“, a realization of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University — United States, said: good journalism has always been subsidized; the market has never been able to support the amount of information that a democracy requires.

Relying on the idea of ​​finding forms of subsidy, Folha states that is using procedures followed by international media such as The New York Times.

We recall the same Tow Center's report to remind us that the search for subsidies formats requires, by the journalistic brand, an evaluation of different operational funding opportunities and sources of funding. The report also states that advertising is still the main source of a newspaper features, but the vehicle-seller relationship is not a partnership but a commercial transaction in which the vehicle has (or had) a primacy.

As a newspaper blocks, a priori, access to its content for those using adblockers, we can consider that the vehicle-seller relationship is clearly emphasizing the advertiser and not the content.

Could this be one of the solutions to the viability of a business model for media companies? Or maybe it would be the endless replication of the successful model of the print medium in an environment that behaves digitally?

Important context aspects need to be considered — culture and social habits of cyber-readers, various reactions to information access barriers, brand loyalty, among others.

The very disclosure of multiple market researches by the media has shown that the Brazilian user behavior in digital ambiences has a “free access” style and that loyalty to brands (journalistic or not) falls to the ground in front of limits, barriers, registrations, conditions.

We base these reflections with the COM+ team — our research group in journalism, digital media and communication at USP ( and some points emerged:

- Taking into account the Brazilian information consumption behavior on networks, blocking the blockers can cause a drop in unique visitors and the vehicle will not have enough inventory to run and deliver traffic for the advertisements as expected by the advertiser;

- In sequence, the vehicle will have to strive to create unique and relevant content to attract the audience; Must invest in investigative reports, in long form materials, professional development ….

- Still using market infos, we know that today, in Brazil, only 3–5% of the connected people use adblocks, which isn’t a significant number as the innovation cycle very soon will offer us a new feature. Worth it for the newspaper brand to bet on ephemerality blockers?

- And, speaking about brands — the most important credibility asset of a journalistic operation — the use of resources that favor the advertiser and not the reader implies, on the part of the vehicle, a strong belief value. Is this the same belief of the audience?

Here we have a broad spectrum to discuss. But as we talked in COM +, there is no free lunch in cyberspace. If you subscribe, you pay for content; if you are not a subscriber you pay indirectly by consuming unwanted advertising. Since we paid, better understand why many pay, for example, to read The New York Times —

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