Paying to remove ads

I think business can use advertising to make money, and they can charge their customers directly to make money. I also think they can do both. When I buy a magazine, I pay several dollars for it, and I understand that a good portion of it will be advertising. Sometimes that’s irksome and sometimes it isn’t (it really depends on the ads), but I understand that not all business models function with direct payment particularly well.

But there’s something unnerving about the model where there are ads for free” customers, and no ads for paying customers. On paper, you’d think this would be the best of both worlds, but in practice I feel like the content producer is actually insulting three different sets of customers.

  1. It’s insulting to the non-paying customer, because the content is being supported by advertising that seems tacked on because the producer knows” I am too cheap to actually pay for it. It’s a judgement business decision.

  2. It’s insulting to the paying customer, because it isn’t really VIP treatment if I have to sign in and go through a walled-garden approach to get a product that I pay for. I feel like if I pay for something, I should get to keep it and do what I like with it, which is almost never the case with these business models.

  3. It’s insulting to the advertiser, because it tells them I’m only using them to punish and scam my non-paying customers, and I’ve taken the work to build part of my platform wagering the annoyance of ads against real money.”

I can absolutely see the other side of this argument, and I know there are holes in this. But this ads for free/no ads for money” approach just feels dishonest to me.

To me, it comes down to, if you’re not directly paying for the product, then you are the product. I don’t think either are necessarily good or bad, but giving the customer the choice is unnerving.

I think I can condense down my problem with opt-out-by-paying-advertising.

If you charge for something and include advertising, then what you’re saying is you need all the money you can possibly get to make this thing.

If you charge for something with no advertising, you’re saying that you’ve found a way to make this thing with a simpler business plan.

If you use advertising and don’t charge, you’re saying you prefer the model where you make the people who use your product the product your advertisers pay for.

BUT, if you charge people to get rid of the ads, you’re saying that the ads have a very fixed cost that I bet the advertisers don’t agree with, and that your product doesn’t cost as much it you’d probably like people to think it does.


February 24, 2012