Ad-Supported Internet: The Musical (Web Site Story)

by on June 30, 2009 · 16 comments

The comic geniuses at CollegeHumor.com have really hit the nail on the head with this musical romp through the (mostly ad-supported) web, a take-off on “Maria” from the musical West Side Story.  Besides showcasing a number of great ad-supported services, the clip really hits the nail on the head by acknowledging that “There is No Free Lunch“: The quid pro quo of advertising supports the plethora of online content and services Internet users take for granted.

Pandora, I just found a website called Pandora…
Pandora! type it in and there’s music playing
watch the ads and it’s almost like paying

I’m tempted to show the clip at our upcoming PFF Capitol Hill briefing on July 10: “Regulating Online Advertising: What Will it Mean for Consumers, Culture & Journalism?

  • http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~tblee Tim Lee

    Berin, do you think Wikipedia is a free lunch?

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    In the sense that someone has to pay for the basic costs of running Wikipedia, no. The Wikimedia Foundation garnered nearly $2.3 million in direct contributions in 2007.

    Now, I'm a big fan of non-profits. In fact, I work at one and run another! There's certainly a place for volunteer-based community organizations like Wikipedia. But anyone who thinks that we'd get by just fine with only that model is delusional. Restricting the amount of funding available for online content and services would have serious consequences for consumers, culture and media.

  • http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~tblee Tim Lee

    Well obviously it's true that someone has to pay for any given online service. But I've always understood “there's no free lunch” to be making a stronger and more specific claim: that lunches are never free to the recipient: i.e. that if you accept a “free” lunch, there's probably an implicit quid pro quo. (listen to a sales pitch or a sermon, sleep with the donor, etc) This clearly isn't how Wikipedia works. Yes, someone has to pay for the servers, but that “someone” isn't the typical Wikipedia user. The overwhelming majority of Wikipedians never give the site a dime, and yet they can reasonably expect Wikipedia to continue to be available for the foreseeable future.

    I don't disagree with your broader point about advertising, but I think it's overstating the case to say there's no free lunch. Free lunches are rarer than we'd like, and as a result, we shouldn't encumber business models built around quid pro quo relationships. But I also think it's important to acknowledge that there are a ton of free lunches out there, courtesy of a wide variety of organizations from Wikipedia to Craig's List to Google.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Agreed. I'll try to work in the “Tim Lee Caveat” in the future: I'm not denigrating community based or other “free” (i.e., no-fee) sites. I'm just trying to point out that advertising continues to be the mother's milk of media in this country, as it has been since the days of colonial newspapers.

  • http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~tblee Tim Lee

    I might have been nitpicking. I certainly agree with the general point about advertising.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    It wouldn't surprise me if one day Wikipedia had to turn to ads to cover its ever-increasing operational costs. Unlike Linux, which is supported by a number of deep-pockets hardware vendors who use it as a component of their systems, there's no business case for a free “encyclopedia.”

    Anyhow, that's a cute video.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Indeed, Richard, I suspect that what's holding back Wikipedia from incorporating multimedia on a wider scale is hosting and bandwidth costs. The Wikimedia Foundation announced earlier this year that it would start allowing users to upload video clips: http://mashable.com/2009/06/19/wikipedia-to-add

    If Wikipedia is going to grow beyond its current text-heavy form, its costs will rise and they'll need to find some way to pay for that. If anti-advertising fanatics block efforts to incorporate ads into the site, Wikipedia will have to raise more money through donations (perhaps through more in-your-face fundraising drives, which can be at least as “annoying” as any ad) or just throttle innovation on the site.

    Again, there is no free lunch. Somebody has to pay for everything.

  • http://www.networkmarketingsuccess.ws mlgreen8753

    You should submit the video to Adwido.

  • http://www.networkmarketingsuccess.ws mlgreen8753

    You should submit the video to Adwido.

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