The Bottom Of The Food Chain

Written By: Richard Lowe

I have nothing against a company trying to make an honest dollar
in exchange for a useful service. After all, that is why companies
are in existence.

Those internet companies which provided free services and based
their existence on supporting those services with advertising are
having a tough time right now. The advertising model is based
upon network television’s success at providing free programming
in exchange for the viewing of advertisements.

The most significant issue with this model (on both television
and the internet) is the fact that the customer is not the viewer
or user. The customer is the advertiser. The actual user of the
service is the commodity which is being sold. That’s why the
Neilson ratings are so important to the network stations – they
determine how many viewers are watching so that commercial time
can be sold. The higher the rating, the more likely sales are to
occur and the higher the rates can be.

The model gets even more convoluted with services such as
GeoCities and Egroups. You see, the model normally has three
components: the company selling the advertising (such as Yahoo),
the advertisers (the real customers), and the users (the viewers
of the ads). Egroups and GeoCities adds a forth grouping.

This is the content providers. In network television, content is
purchased directly by the networks and carefully planned to be of
maximum desirability to advertisers. In the case of Yahoo and
similar companies, the content is created by a legion of
volunteers, all more or less industriously working to make money
for the corporate machine.

Who are these content providers? Why, anyone who has a web site
(in the case of GeoCities) and runs a mailing list (in the case
of egroups). As you create web pages or send emails you are
actually giving content to the company, in which they place
advertisements. People look at your content and view the ads.

Unfortunately, in this model the content providers are not worth
much to the company. After all, there are plenty more where they
came from. Someone will always want a free web site or mailing
list or whatever in exchange for the showing of ads.

That is the main reason why the service from companies with this
model tends to be exceptionally poor – the content providers are
the lowest critters on the food chain.

This is very easy to see. Let’s say someone puts up a web site on
one of these free providers which has some questionable content,
perhaps not exactly in violation of the terms and conditions but
it could be interpreted that way. You will find that the web site
will be deleted immediately and without warning on the first email
complaining of a violation. There is usually no investigation, no
appeal and no recourse for the webmaster.

In a more sane model, the webmaster directly pays for his site.
If a complaint is made, the company will generally be much slower
on the trigger, and much more likely to listen to the webmasters
than in the advertising based model.

As advertisers have become more savvy to the fact that promotion
on the internet is not nearly as cut-and-dry or simple as
expected, they are spending their money more carefully. This has
resulted in far less income for the internet companies (resulting
in many business failures), and it can be quite entertaining to
see how desperate the survivors are becoming.

Egroups moved their ads from the bottom of their emails to the
top, and changed them from text links to graphics banners. Users
of the service hate this change almost without exception, but
advertisers want their banners seen, and the top is better suited
for that purpose. It’s completely irrelevant what the users think
(unless, of course, they defected in mass, which they have not

In addition, egroups subscribers were recently shocked to learn
that they will now, by default, receive numerous spam emails in
exchange for using the service. There is now a new screen which
lists all of the different categories for this spam along with a
yes/no option to allow it to be stopped. The default for everyone
is YES, because Yahoo knows that most people will not bother to
change it.

This naturally puts more advertisements in front of more people.

On the other hand, Yahoo has obviously concluded that the
advertising model does not work well for it’s GeoCities product.
If you have a web site you are only allowed a tiny amount of
bandwidth before the site is shut off for the rest of the month.
This means far fewer ads are shown. The purpose is to get the
webmasters to pay for their web sites (which would be a poor
decision on the part of most webmasters as their are many web
hosts with far better service available at less cost).

So what is the answer for the consumer? Find services in which
you are the direct customer. You will generally receive far better
customer service, and you might be surprised to find out that the
cost is not as bad as you might have thought.

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets
at http://www.internet-tips.net – Visit our website any time to
read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your
internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.

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