Tuesday 16 November 1999


Pic of the day: Power Clicker!


Today, I started to write about how the future creeps up on us while we look another way. As an example I started to write about how the Internet is replacing conventional magazines and newspapers. As an explanation to some of this, I started to write about online advertisement. And it all got out of hand, as usual. So without further pre-ramble, here's my tribute to online ads.


I think that ad-washers are eevil. You know, the pieces of software that act as a companion to your browser and tries to stop online ads. The idea is that your browser should load pages faster and you should get less distraction. There's probably the warm glow of bashing capitalists too. But let me tell you, it is egotistical, unfair and stupid. Stop it. Stop it now, because you're not just hurting yourself but me too, and I just might whine loudly. Trust me, you would not like that.

First, let me clarify why I should hate online ads. The reasons are about as numerous as they can get in a citizen of a developed country.
--I live in a country where internet access is paid per minute. So I'm not just paying for them, I was until recently forced to pay for them to a de facto monopoly which was fattening itself with huge profits.
--I don't have the fastest computer or phone lines around. They are good enough, but nothing extraordinary. In the past, I had a definitely low-end PC and the internet connections were quite slow, especially abroad.
--I am not in the target group of the ads. Firstly, I am not an average person, not even in the part of the population that is online. Secondly, I am Norwegian and so American ads are wasted on me.

So why do I support online ads? Because they are giving us the Internet we have today, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

It may not be obvious to the hobby surfer, but some people work hard to put content on the Web. I guess you could leave it all to the enthusiasts, but then the online information would generally hold the level of alt.alien.visitors. Or of this journal, which is made without online advertising and on my free time. I hope this made you think twice.

When the Net was still in the transition from an academic tool to a commercially viable channel, there were two favored ways to recoup the costs of a serious internet site. One was advertisement, the other was prepaid subscription. The user of the service would have to register and pay a certain amount to get a password valid for some time. There might be teasers for free. Example of popular sites that has taken this approach are The Economist and JenniCam. Generally this approach depends on you being unique and in very high demand.
The other approach was online advertising. In this case, you are giving up some of the space and, most importantly, attention. The people who come to your site may be diverted by (often intrusive) advertisement. But it gives the reader the option of visiting a lot of different sites a few times each instead of a few sites all the time. And humans being humans, freedom has largely won out. So far.


A few more reflections related to this. I think attention is the "currency" of the Internet society. It has always been so that certain items were highly valued and in short supply. In the traditional economy, gold could be used as a currency because of this. In the Internet economy, attention is highly valued and in short supply. There are so many places to see that it is "surfer's market" so to speak. Both commercial and private sites want you to come see. We never get enough of attention! Of course, some of us rarely get any. Ahem.

What online ads do is convert the Internet currency (attention) to fleshworld currency (money). Or the other way around, for the advertisers.

So next time you visit a site you like, consider clicking on a few ads. And if the site has no ads, you can assume that it is because we love you enough to pay so you don't have to. Or we might just be so desperate for attention that we won't share it with anyone. You never know. :)

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