Asking today’s media to give us the intention economy is like asking AM radio to give us cellular telephony.
What if we don’t need advertising at all?
Doc Searls

This is spot on.

In China, and other emerging economies that have only recently reached the “building the infrastructure of mass-commerce” stage, advertising doesn’t play nearly as big a role in the way consumers and brands interact.

Less than 20% of [WeChat creator] Tencent’s revenues come from advertising compared to over 95% for Facebook’s revenue. In fact, most large consumer mobile companies in China (and elsewhere around the world) do not rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue; they focus on transactions instead. (Connie Chan, a16z)

Chinese internet companies have experimented with all sorts of models, including in-app or in-game fees, monetised user-generated discovery (Little Red Book, Mogujie, Meilishuo), micro-transactions, digital goods as social currency ( and umpteen versions of the on-demand model.

Most of these products implicitly leverage social relationships to enable discovery, clarify context, qualify intent and create a virtuous cycle of more relevant onwards referral. And because a large percentage of these users mostly or only access the internet on mobile, “always on, always with you” collides with context markers (location, past choice/behaviour etc.) to only fuel this further.

(Reality check: There’s also currently a lot of tracking, and data privacy varies, but our current model relies almost entirely on tracking. When tracking collapses, i’m not sure what will be left.)

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