Would you pay for Facebook?

Written by on June 9, 2016 in Opinion with 1 Comment

coins-1239681-1279x958‘They’ say that something is worth only as much as someone is prepared to pay for it. It is a fine sentiment and one worth reconsidering in an age where we have become convinced that we are entitled to stuff for free. Particularly information.

The ‘free’ bit is actually the unacknowledged deal between advertising and consumers. You get it for free, advertisers get to sell you things.

So, here is an acid test: would you pay for Facebook?

The answer is almost certainly ‘no’.

The perception is that we get to share holiday snaps and sneezing cats for free. But, of course, we don’t. The unwritten deal still applies, we get it for free, and the advertisers get to annoy us.

The main problem lies with the advertising industry, which, like us, has become bloated and lazy. As our friend Jebb Lewis put it, in a comment on a recent rant about advertising, they are fitting quite nicely into Einstein’s theory of insanity and “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. And we have reacted by blocking their efforts to chase us into every digital corner we retreat to.

Mary Meeker, in her annual report on the state of the Internet agrees. Whilst advertising revenues continue to rise for the moment, too much focus is being put on traditional media techniques that do not translate. She notes the PageFair figures that we used, that 420 million ad blockers have been downloaded. More worryingly, 81 percent of people mute video ads; 62 percent are annoyed and/or put off by brands forcing pre-roll viewing and a staggering 93 percent of people are considering using ad blocking software.

Right now, operators are considering or implementing opt in ad blocking at a network level. Although this sounds noble and altruistic, read on a little and you find that these operators are actually blocking adverts from brands and publishers that are not advertising partners.

This problem (that some call the adblockalypse) will, of course, work itself out. It always does. But, it does cause Facebook et al a serious problem.

If a decent number of those 93 percent of people actually do download ad blocking software, then the current Facebook business model goes up in smoke. And their attempts to monetise Messenger are only just beginning. That is a big headache.

They must have considered offering an ‘ad free’ Facebook experience, an equivalent to Spotify Premium. They must have. You could even speculate at pricing levels. $5 a month, $2? Given the number of users, it is not bad business.

But it takes us back to the earlier question.

Would you pay for Facebook?

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Bob says:

    I sense this may be the contrarian position, but yes – maddening as Facebook often is, I get plenty of entertainment from it, and if I wasn’t onboard I would simply never hear from most of my friends ever again. So yes – $5/ month would actually be a small price to pay, less than I pay for a subscription to the Digital Guardian (which I almost never get round to opening)…

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