Google and Facebook are the same in one key way. And that is, their users are the products.
Think about it. Where does each company make its money? Selling advertisements. So the advertisers must be the customers. And what are they buying? Us.
The world has evolved with the internet in such a way that advertisements can be targeted to the individual. Companies large and small can pay only for ads delivered to the people they want to reach. And the companies that have created the platforms, the ones with the most information about us that they’re able to sell, are the ones that are reaping the rewards.
But who does this hurt? Advertisers are getting the benefit of better targeting, and in most cases, cheaper ads. And the users are getting the utility of a Google, or a Facebook.
In exchange for ads (and a lot of behind the scenes data collection) it appears that we are more and more willing to accept useful, free or low-cost products.
Old media companies, think of television or newspapers, made money on both ends of the equation. We paid for the products, and we got ads.
Today, it seems to be more of an either/or situation. Netflix is a paid service that removes the ads. Spotify and other internet radio services have free versions with ads, and paid versions without. And when we’re given that option, some of us pay. But most of us accept the ads if it means we get something for free.
We are so used to ads because we have been overexposed to them since birth. Advertising is everywhere. And that trend is not fading. As companies like Google and Apple begin to make their way into the home, with internet connected consumer goods and other products, can’t you imagine a world in which almost everything we buy is subsidized by advertisements.
This is a double-edged sword for advertisers and for the end user. For the advertiser, it means more opportunities to reach people, but a more ad-burdened audience that will be trained to ignore them.
For users, if the ads work, we spend more money than we would have had we just paid full price for the product without ads.
The future of advertising appears to be ads everywhere. Our response to those ads might mean the difference between whether the ads everywhere strategy succeeds or not.