I keep running into a question of using advertising as a default business model for internet startups and I feel that this default needs to be challenged. Yes, advertising is a popular means of generating revenues, yes successful advertising promises high revenues, yes with an advertising revenue source a service can be offered to customers for free and yes it is more often then not an intrusive element that does not respect. Also chew on this: what do you value more – what is given to you for free or what you pay for out of pocket? Do you believe quality comes free of charge?
I am not judging advertising – it has its place in our lives and has its ups and downs. I do feel that advertising in its default internet configuration (banners, ads, clicks, exposures, etc.) is not suitable for many internet businesses who, by default, choose it as a primary revenue source (for those who do use it – please keep in mind that it can take longer then you anticipate to reach a point in which your service becomes an attractive advertising platform). I feel that advertising can be a good business model if it truly forms an attractive advertising platform for both the advertisers and the consumers (this takes more work then simply adding “advertising” to the list of revenue sources).
To me the question is not really about advertising – but rather about a subtle assumption I feel is carried through in advertising based business models – “we cannot charge for the service”. This is the point that I wish to challenge. Why can’t a good, high quality, valuable service be charged directly to customers? Why assume that a customer will not want to pay? Sure, if you provide a low value service (could this be a problem with many internet services?) that don’t expect customers to use it or pay for it. On the other hand I believe that customers would gladly pay a reasonably (low?) priced fee for a service that provides a reliable and valuable service THAT DOES NOT POLLUTE THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH ADVERTISING!
I believe that people realize and appreciate when effort is put in to providing good service. Yes a good service is one that is simple and pleasant to use, yes a good service clearly addresses needs and desires, yes a good service is one that does not grab a customer by the balls for later squeezing, yes a good service is one that respects the customer and yes a good service is one that a customer will gladly pay to use!