Pages load four times faster when using an ad-blocking extension while visiting popular sites. Bandwith consumption is 53% lower (BetaNews). Turn on tracking protection, & get a 44% reduction in page load time & a 39% reduction in data usage (VentureBeat).

What happens when corporations get their hands on a new content delivery system that they don’t understand? They just get in the way, which is how the internet became the advertisement-driven behemoth that it is today.

The Basics:

  1. We are in an era that anyone (& anything) can put content on the internet.
  2. One can purchase nearly any imaginable product online.
  3. One can find nearly any imaginable product online & get it for free; especially when it comes to entertainment.

Value on the Internet

How does one put a value on free information? By quantifying around it. How many visits, how many clicks; how much time spent; views, sources, shares, conversions… but none of it means anything. Have you gotten a human being to do something with your content yet?

Possibly, but more likely, you have encountered a bot. I built a personal website (for job hunting), & within a week, was getting thousands of visits, averaging 1.58 pageviews a session, & even managed a handful of conversions (measured by emails received). But not one human (sorry Mom, I can’t count you for the moment).

This is what the advertisement supported revenue model is based upon. If a site can supply the metrics, they can successfully sustain a content generating business. Yes, I have simplified the whole process, but I await the person who can successfully argue that if PPC stood for “pay-per-conversion,” that Google Adsense would be as large a part of our internet lives.

Why pay for that, which is free?


I don’t, you don’t, no one who can find [fill in the blank] for free would pay for that product. The internet makes it very easy to find anything for free.

Product v. Service

Content is a product. Generating content is a service. Amalgamating content is NOT a service. Putting a paywall or Adwall between the user & content means someone or something has inserted itself where it doesn’t belong. Very specifically, when there is a blockage between the user and the content, it means that your user is interacting with it, & not your product.

From a user experience design standpoint, this is just about the worst thing you can do. Building a pay- or ad-wall forces your user to interact with the worst part of your site. It increases load times, decreases privacy, adds bloat. Make the user sign up again; make them fill out another form; prevent them from doing what they want; take away the freedom to discover: basically hijack their browser & force the user to do what you, the business, want. Your site just failed the most basic of usability heuristics. You succeeded in building a wall.

What is the result? I know I immediately go back to Google, select a different link, or add, “free,” to my search query.

The Wall

The wall that used to be between users & information (content) was distance, & a lack of communication. Newspapers provided a link to another part of the world, schools & universities, a link to expertise, the telephone, a faster link to your friends & family. The radio, a set of curated music from another city, across the country, or across the world.

The internet has utterly destroyed that wall.

It is understandable, that a successful business does not want to rebuild from the ground up, but when secrecy is the key to maintaning the market, it will fail.

Alternatives to the Ad Supported Revenue Model

Sell your expertise:

Hundreds of tech websites review the newest & shiniest. Why not charge the business selling it to review it? Consumers worry about journalist integrity, & how paying someone to review a product could possibly be unbiased, but I wonder how handing over the latest & greatest for free is anything, but “Chicago-style.”

If your job is to review the newest, then your job relies on honesty. If I know that you’re getting paid to be a critic, then I expect honesty. If a reviewer keeps getting free stuff from a company, I wonder how much they’d rather get free stuff, than be completely honest.

The Membership Model:

This model relies on being able to provide users for other businesses, but instead of being the middleman, selling either users to the businesses, or content to the users, the purpose is to create & grow a focused community. Successful versions of this model can be seen in chambers of commerce.

Chambers of commerce create opportunities for businesses by providing community support: they drive local public improvements, events, & target select groups to drive to their location. They supply an opportunity for the business, as well as help the business be prepared for the opportunity.

Humans are hardwired to support their communities, & pay-what-you-want models have shown that many will pay more, & that this model is successful in highly sectioned market segments. Creating & sustaining a community can be a profitable service.

Pick a Better Commodity to Sell

As the internet allows anyone to generate & post content: the 2015 Cisco VNI predicts that annual IP traffic will enter the zettabyte (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 [10^21]bytes/year) era in 2016. That number is expected to increase by 52% by 2019.

Gold would be worthless if the amount of it mined increased by 50% or more every four years.

Time to innovate.

Free Information

Information is a resource, but not a commodity. Secreting it away is a recipe for disaster. The experiment of the internet should be spelling this out very clearly, but in too many fields, the opposite is occurring. Even in the educational sector, more & more information is being hidden behind a paywall. Whom does that help? Does removing the tools for self-reliance, understanding, & discovery increase well-being or innovation? No, it drives fear, paranoia & sickness.

Businesses need to move from the content-as-commodity model. “How,” will be the interesting part.

Do you have a method to mediate this madness? Would you like me to break down a more specific case to exemplify the issues with outdated middlemen services like the music industry or even CNN? Drop me a line & I’ll get back to you soon.

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