by Leo Babauta
One of the biggest reasons people buy so much, and are so discontent with their lives, is advertising. Advertising creates false_needs — all of a sudden we need an iPhone or a new car or a_diamond_ring, just because an advertiser put the need in our heads.
What is advertising? It’s a company (or political candidate, etc.) paying a publishing platform (TV, newspaper, website, billboard, etc.) to get its message/brand in front of people. Companies are paying for our attention, and trying to get us to buy what they’re selling. And the publisher makes money by selling the attention of its readers/watchers/users.
Of course, for us, the users … it sucks. Ads make the watching experience much worse. Ads make the reading experience much worse (imagine reading this article with 10 ads surrounding it).
Ads make our lives worse.
Isn’t that amazing? Companies build entire businesses around actively making our lives worse. And they do it because it works. Because we buy what they’re selling, so advertisers make more money through this model, and publishers also win.
But we lose.
Many people, of course, would rather not have ads if given the choice. I prefer to watch a TV show on iTunes (where I might pay a dollar or two for the show) rather than pay for cable TV where I might get many more shows for the same dollar or two, but also have to put up with advertising. Honestly, I don’t need that many shows, and I’m not willing to pay less in order to make my life worse.
Lots of people will put up with ads to get content for free. But it’s not free, because:
Your life is worse for having to watch the ads.
You are paying for the ads, and thus the content, by buying more. If you weren’t, advertising wouldn’t exist.
The time you spend watching ads is worth something.
This is becoming more important than ever because of the amount of time our lives are spent online and in front of screens, and thus potentially in front of ads. There are two directions I see advertising going in the future:
However, I submit that there will be more and more services in the coming years that help us to block out ads. Obviously in the browser there are ad-blocking plugins/extensions, and people use things like Tivo to skip ads on television. We can pay to have no ads on some services. This is a worthwhile service, to pay to make your life less crappy, though of course not everyone will be able to afford this kind of service. So some will pay to have zero ads, and others will not afford it and have ads everywhere, all the time. The difference between these two kinds of lives will be huge.
I’m just one publisher on the Internet, but there are others. We are the exceptions, but I think we’re important exceptions. Readers/users/viewers can choose publishers who don’t have advertising, and avoid/block those who do. Opt out. Be conscious about who you go to, who you trust. If enough people do this, having no ads will become a competitive advantage. That will then encourage others to do the same, and then we will be able to choose a life without crappy ads, without having to pay extra.
Which future happens is up to you. You can opt to not read/watch/use sites and services with ads (and if you’re a publisher, you can create an ad-free business model), or you can put up with crappy ads and let the all-pervasiveness win.