Jason Falls

Jason Falls

There’s a lot I love about the Web 2.0 culture. Open source platforms and the abundance of free tools and technologies available to us all are chief among them. But there is also a fair amount of insanity in those approaches that I fear is creeping up on us.

The inspiration for this post was a conversation I had with a friend the other day who said, “I love my DVR. I haven’t watched a commercial in months.” When I asked him how long he expects to still be watching his favorite shows, he looked puzzled.

“The avoidance of those commercials means those shows will eventually be cancelled,” I said. “You’re killing your own chances of being able to watch them by watching just them.”

To be blunt, those that think they’ve been getting their television for free all these years are short-sighted, if not ignorant. Your admission charge has been watching the commercials. The advertisers pay the production costs and salaries of those involved in the programs. If they don’t get a return on their investment in the programs, they don’t sponsor them, the shows get cancelled and you get pissed.

Any Jericho fans out there? Thanks for TiVo-ing it.

Out of BusinessWhile social media has emerged largely because most people grew sick of thousands of marketing messages each day. They turned to emerging online technologies that enabled connections with like-minded folks for recommendations and discussions around buying decisions, hobbies and more. The ensuing culture produced a library of free services and platforms. Don’t buy it. You can find something similar online for free. Today, online users are almost offended if they have to pay for a service.

With all due respect, Mr. Anderson, the Economy of Free culture we’ve created is, in a word, stupid.

If a tool is free, then you’re likely paying for it by having to view advertisements which support its costs. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Twitter, whose business model is perhaps the only thing on the planet more elusive than Osama Bin Laden.

Venture capitalists are running all around the world looking for the next platform or tool they think Google will pay too much money for, dumping millions of dollars into businesses no more sound than Wild Stallions. (Bonus points if you get the reference.)

What we’ve created is a marketplace that isn’t sustainable. For every FriendFeed, there are half a dozen Profilactics that were much better, but didn’t have a direct connection to some Silicon Valley big shot. Anyone who invested in the also rans lost money. While I’m not one to predict all the good ideas have been had, the disproportionate amount of money that is being poured into technology startups these days makes me shudder to think what the entrepreneurs will do when the investors come calling wanting their money back.

If you’re not selling to Google, Yahoo or Microsoft within 18 months, you’re probably toast.

Then there’s the general open source movement. I love open source software but relying upon the masses for its security and sustainability scares the bejeezus out of me. I use WordPress for a lot of online publishing. What happens if Mullenweg and company decide to go open a bar or something? What happens if a meteor hits Austin during South by Southwest?

Yes, I’ll be secure knowing LifestreamBackup.com has my back. (Gratuitous plug for my new venture, but meant as lighthearted fun, not, “Buy This!” Sorry.) But can we really count on the platforms and technologies we use? Sure, the longevity of a paid content management solution is no more predictable, but when I think of “the community” of the world, “trust” isn’t something that immediately jumps in my head.

All this Web 2.0 culture shift has created a disturbing attitude in most of us toward advertising as well. We DVR our favorite shows and skip the ads. We get pissed off when we go watch something on Hulu and have to sit through a 15-second car commercial. Hulu’s tag line is, “Watch Your Favorites. Anytime. For Free.”

But Hulu isn’t free. Watching the ad is the price of admission. If you don’t watch it, Hulu will either charge you a subscription fee or not let you watch your shows.

This is why advertising is not dead and why we need to wake up and smell the rich, pure aroma of our Folgers Coffee. The Economy of Free will only last so long.

Better save your money.

Is open source sustainable? Are venture capitalists leading the world in dumb moves right now? Can television shows survive without advertising? If so, will enough people pay to watch what they want to sustain entertainment as we know it?

A penny for your thoughts!

IMAGE: By Lou Oates on ShutterStock.com. Used with permission.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • jimsutter

    Jason, I guess you really opened up a can of worms. Just sat through another Web 2.0 seminar today that said I should seriously move into the free-er and easier WordPress for most development. That's daunting.

  • jimsutter

    Jason, I guess you really opened up a can of worms. Just sat through another Web 2.0 seminar today that said I should seriously move into the free-er and easier WordPress for most development. That's daunting.

  • huangqin
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  • BlackRiverBRAT

    Interesting and valid points, sir…one thing I'm wondering, though: might not the t.v. shows in your examples begin to try, oh, I don't know, cutting production costs instead of floundering because viewers aren't watching the ads? Perhaps actors and actresses will start getting paid less for memorizing lines. Perhaps the producers will start finding lucrative alternatives to seeking advertisers, or *gasp* advertisers will start making commercials that don't shout, scream, or insult our intelligence, inspiring us to not mind watching them. Just those two cents' worth. :-)

    Kelly in VT

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Kelly, all are possible and I'm sure to some extent, all will have to happen for television to continue to be viable.

      Thanks for the thoughts.

  • BlackRiverBRAT

    Interesting and valid points, sir…one thing I'm wondering, though: might not the t.v. shows in your examples begin to try, oh, I don't know, cutting production costs instead of floundering because viewers aren't watching the ads? Perhaps actors and actresses will start getting paid less for memorizing lines. Perhaps the producers will start finding lucrative alternatives to seeking advertisers, or *gasp* advertisers will start making commercials that don't shout, scream, or insult our intelligence, inspiring us to not mind watching them. Just those two cents' worth. :-)

    Kelly in VT

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I wouldn't neccessarily disagree, Jim. WordPress is extremely versatile and well supported. As its creator, Matt Mullenweg, indicated above, it will be around long after he's gone. The community will support it.

    My argument was not that open source is the wrong idea or is going away. My point is that start ups thinking they can just throw something out there and hope for Google to buy them. It's not a smart business approach.

    Don't misunderstand. Open Source software is reliable, is stable and is safe. But it helps to know what you're getting into and consider all the angles. Worst case scenario, you can go in and change the code in WordPress to suit your needs. It's open.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Kelly, all are possible and I'm sure to some extent, all will have to happen for television to continue to be viable.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

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  • frederickdsouza

    my comment is big but in brief. just go to http://www.justfortheloveofit.org its about living without money and everybody helping each other just for the love of it. One should just have self control and go for needs only or else learn from the animals who just eat what they need. living for today, or one day at a time. meet me there at ID: goafenny

  • John Owens

    Could you explain more on why some things will stay free and how that is different than DVR TV shows? Specifically, what free things will we soon have to pay for, and what things will always be free? What is the verdict on Craigslist.org, Couchsurfing.org, and Wikipedia.org?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks John. I don't think we'll suddenly have to pay for things we
      now get for free. But when you think about it, you pay for DVR TV
      shows – cable bill and all. I just think that running businesses based
      on giving away the farm is dangerous territory. Can free be used to
      entice a deeper involvement with your customer base? Sure can. But at
      some point, you have to start charging for something. Thanks for the
      comment.

  • coffeemakers

    Jason, I guess you really opened up a can of worms. Just sat through another Web 2.0 seminar today that said I should seriously move into the free-er and easier WordPress for most development. That's daunting.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Keep in mind many software platforms, like WordPress, is so widely
      used with large developer communities that you won't get stuck with
      something you ultimately can't use. At least with that example, the
      free software isn't a bad choice!

  • coffeemakers

    Jason, I guess you really opened up a can of worms. Just sat through another Web 2.0 seminar today that said I should seriously move into the free-er and easier WordPress for most development. That's daunting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Keep in mind many software platforms, like WordPress, is so widely
    used with large developer communities that you won't get stuck with
    something you ultimately can't use. At least with that example, the
    free software isn't a bad choice!

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