News Satire People Food Other


By Gerald McGrew on April 25, 2013 in Other

Photo: John Singleton

Photo: John Singleton

When George Orwell wrote that “advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket”, there’s no way he could have foreseen just how bad the swill would smell to the average Internet user. With Facebook recently updating its news feed to allow advertisers even greater exposure to users, the collective cry of “why the eff are you doing this to us?” from nearly 1 billion Facebook addicts has never been louder.

Before we answer why, let’s have a look at the Internet outfits that provide your social networks, webmail, instant messaging, and allow you to stick your photos or videos online. There are thousands, if not millions of companies out there vying for your attention with useful online services. The majority of these Internet businesses are based on a simple premise: giving you something handy online, usually for free or for little charge, and getting you hooked on it. It’s also what good drug dealers do… so it must work, right?

It’s what happens next that’s the tricky part for the world’s most used Internet properties. Say the company has a zillion users, lots of love and hype going its way, and the founders are starting to seriously eye off Porsches, mansions and blocks of cocaine. There’s even talk they’ll finally get laid. All that remains is the small problem of not actually earning enough cashola to keep the lights on. It’s at this point that the owners have a difficult choice to make – they can either charge their loyal users, blast them with ads, or do a bit of both. Yet when your legions of customers love you because you’re free or cheap and you don’t sell them out to advertisers, you’ve got a tough decision on your hands.

Adding to the misery is the sad fact that no one wants to pay a cent to use online services. We never really have, and it’s doubtful we ever will. So advertising lucre tends to be the only solution, and the clean, uncluttered web and mobile service users know and love begin to get all sorts of ads appearing in them. Then users think about leaving for an alternative. Without ads. This, of course, perpetuates the cycle, giving the whole scenario a distinct feeling of déjà vu.

Occasionally at this point a wealthy company will buy in and screw things up royally. Instagram is going through this right now via Facebook, and MySpace died years ago courtesy of News Ltd. Hotmail was bought by Microsoft in 1997 for $400m and despite its many millions of users it still doesn’t earn a whole lot of coin. Ditto for every instant messenger service out there: lots of action and not much money coming in. Twitter is still ‘independent’ and is slowly eking revenue out of its many users. As the largest echo chamber on the Internet, there’s a long way to go before all those largely pointless tweets generate billions in revenue. Reddit and Tumblr also have fan bases in the millions, yet no real prospects for ripping money out of them.

So the angst directed at Facebook for courting dirty advertiser money is simply users reaping what they’ve sown. With no chance of Facebook’s members paying for access I’m pleased to confirm it’s the bucket, the stick and the swill for the online social set!