In the early days, much of the internet was free. Websites were free. Content was free. Today, Wi-Fi internet access in the mall and millions of other locations is free. True, at home we pay for an internet connection, and smartphones come with data plans, but there’s nothing new there. What about putting a price tag on what was free?
No. Free. Lunch.
Maybe it’s blind stupidity. Maybe it’s just simple human naiveté. Whatever it is we should have learned as a child that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Somewhere in the timeline of everything except the sun and the moon and the stars, there’s money involved.
Search on Google is free, right? Well, not so fast. Search results are infected with advertising, and that begets money to Google to help pay for the free search and free information. What about Apple? No free lunch there as Apple’s products remain on the premium branch of the tree.
Word on the streets says Apple might begin charging developers for better placement in searches for the App Store. Not only does Apple already take a 30-percent cut and the search options suck, but now Apple thinks developers are getting fat and rich and the company is within its rights to charge developers for better placement of their apps. Sure. That’ll help the search process.
Guess. What. Else?
Publishers who have gone online have a hard time making money. That’s true for small websites like Mac360 but also for rich and powerful news entities like Tribune Publishing (Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, among others). Advertising online is not the same as print advertising or broadcast advertising. It’s far more competitive online, and that tends to drive down rates, revenue, and, if any, profits.
Comments are a staple of online reader, and now Tribune and other publishers are charging readers to make comments. Need to comment on some jerk’s snarky remark? There’s a price tag for that. And we’re not talking micro-payments of, say, 10-cents per comment. Some online publishers have a daily or annual rate to post comments, while others have chosen a punch card-like point system. Pay for a card which gives you x-number of points, and use points to make comments.
In other words, publishers, websites, and maybe soon Apple itself, will charge money for what was once free.
What’s. Going. On?
Why didn’t anyone see this coming? Publishers and websites need to monetize their content; where monetize is a new age term for ‘make money.’ Money makes things happen and publishers cannot give content away for free forever. Someone has to pay the bills. So, in recent years publishers have sold out to advertisers to the point where every major content website is cluttered with ads, packed with animated graphic elements pitching this and selling that, and invisible tracking makes you the hunted reader. A website page of 100k of readable text can become 4-megabytes of ads, tracking scripts, and worse; a heavy weight which clogs your internet connection and pushes your data plan to the limit.
Advertising has become so abhorrent to readers that even free isn’t enough to keep them engaged in the onslaught of in-your-face commercialization which has bred a growing trend toward online users putting up ad blockers to prevent ads and trackers.
There is no free lunch. What was free now is often with a price tag. That trend may continue and even work as large publishers create paywalls to bolster revenue, but the danger to the so-called free internet looms large.
Why does Apple need to charge developers for better app search placement? Why not just make search results better than what the App Store does now?