I retweeted a very thoughtful post by Fred Wilson on “Free vs. Paid.”
Wilson argues that free and freemium (a term he invented; I had no idea) are not the enemies of the consumer, and advertising is not evil. Key quote:
This post is in reaction to the idea that services should be paid to ensure that they are appropriately focused on the consumer/user as opposed to the marketer/advertiser/sponsor.
Let’s start with advertising. I do not believe it is evil. In fact, I believe it is a fantastic way to support services that want the broadest adoption and want to be free.
This is true, but not completely relevant. Advertising is not evil, but it’s conflicted. If a business is supplying a product or service to you, and someone else is paying for it, you will receive a suboptimal product or service whereever your interests and those of the payor diverge.
We see this in online, in politics, in television, in video, in audio.
And not just in ad-sponsored businesses. Think of auto-body work and health insurance, for instance. Anywhere that Jill pays for a service that Joe consumes, conflict can arise.
So the point is not to avoid ad-sponsored businesses, but to make sure that everyone understands, in plain and simple terms. the points of conflict and the quidae pro quo (if that’s the right plural).