Friday, March 1, 2013

What if you CAN'T use an ad-funded service?

Yeah, third post today after a week-plus silence. I was working on a major project, and am now recovering - and making up for lost time, I guess.

I visited my Google Reader feeds for the first time in a long while, and caught up on this post from Jake Kuramoto that he wrote back on February 15. The post explains why Jake has turned off Disqus comments on The Appslab blog.

In December, Disqus began adding links via their plugin, a feature called Promoted Discovery. These links were appearing above the comments in a section called Recommended Content....

I’m happy with Disqus and understand the reasons why they are pushing new features. It’s a business. However, I can’t have any ads here, lest somehow they be construed as endorsement by me or my employer.

In Jake's case, this distinction must clearly be made, since the blog is clearly tied to Jake's day job. (In my personal case, this is less of an issue.)

However, this is clearly something that we'll have to confront more and more. Business X will be looking for some tools, and since Business X (like all businesses) wants to minimize costs, there will be a strong incentive for Business X to choose free tools.

However, nothing is free, and the businesses that provide these tools have to earn money somehow. Often, that money is earned by advertisements, controlled by the tool-providing company.

You can see how this could cause problems for Business X. The easiest example would be a case in which the tool displays an ad for Business X's competitor, Business Y. In fact, it's highly likely that such an ad would display, since any blog from Business X is going to contain content that would appeal to the same people who are targets for Business Y's ads.

Is there a solution? Well, Jake addresses that in his post also:

Mostly though, I’ve turned off the plugin because I’m a control freak by nature. I’ve learned from the demise and neutering of other services that it’s often better to own my own data, or at least pay someone to manage it.
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