Think of this as Volume 17, Number 12 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
Content has a price, always. Whether you're reading content, listening to it, or watching it on a screen, the price is your time.
Time is the most valuable asset any of us have. Our time is limited. We must spend big hunks of it sleeping, eating, and traveling. We spend a third or more of our time making the money we need to sustain us.
What's left, the time available for content, is thus very precious.
I got a clue on this when I received an Amazon Kindle Fire for Christmas. I'd gotten Amazon Prime for the cheap shipping, thus I suddenly had access to all sorts of “free” content. Lots of TV shows I missed, lots of movies. Too many, it turns out. When I try to catch up on a series I thought I'd like, I find I'm taking time away from reading I could be doing.
It's not money for content that's in short supply, it's time for content.
The problem for purveyors of content is they don't know how to monetize time beyond advertising, which usually aims to steal bits of time from us. We call this the attention economy.
What the Internet is supposed to be about is monetizing time. All the big data collected on our Internet use, the dossiers Google and others have on us, all the social media folderol is aimed at transforming advertising, from something that's an annoying interruption into something that's of real service.
Businesses have two sets of costs. The cost of what they're making represents half of what they spend. Getting it into the hands of consumers is the second half, and most of that consists of some kind of marketing.
Advertising, as presently constituted, is just a tiny part of that. The content owner throws up some billboard space before a defined audience, and the advertiser rents that space. The message, and whatever follow-up activity is needed to take someone down the sales funnel, turning suspects into prospects and getting prospects to buy, is all on the guy buying the ad. Thus content's involvement in modern marketing is very limited.
An ad that provides no service, that doesn't drive you down the sales funnel, that doesn't turn you into a buyer, is a waste of your time and the advertiser's budget. If that waste could be eliminated, if ads truly became service, the time you spend with content would be more than paid for. The ad would be pushing you further down the sales funnel, thus it would provide more value to the person buying it. And we're always in the market for something. The question is always, what.
So marketing behind content is all about turning your time into someone else's money. Yet you remain in control of both, your time and your money. The reason most of us resent the ads is because they don't provide real service, they seem to be wasting our time, and they are. They're also wasting advertisers' money.
What we object to more is actually paying for content with money. Considering the value of our time, this seems silly. It's always going to be just a tiny fraction of the time's value. The taking of your time is of immense value, and should be sufficient for nearly any content provider.
When I place an actual dollar value on content, demand that you spend $5 to watch a two-hour movie, then I should at the very least not advertise alongside it. The marketing funnel is worth more than any content reasonably costs. The moves of two London newspapers to drop prices to zero on their printed products should prove that.
But content makers will continue to run themselves down the drain. Newspapers will keep putting up paywalls, cutting their audiences 90% and making themselves worthless as ad vehicles. All we can do is replace them, see their stupidity and failure as an opportunity.