Free information on tap
We are truly lucky to live the digital age, where access to information on just about any subject imaginable is available at the click of a mouse, jab of a finger, or wave of a hand! And this information is – for the most part -free. Whether you’re looking for information about brain chemistry, gardening advice or to find that single elusive ‘fact’, you’ll most likely use Google or another major search engine and get an answer almost instantaneously.
We are now able to sidestep hours spent at the library. Thanks to the internet, we have free access to unprecedented amounts of information – anywhere and anytime. But generating that information is not free – most of it is created by an army of dedicated experts and enthusiasts writing content, curating information and maintaining millions of excellent, authoritative and credible informational sites.
Free ain’t actually free!
Yup– free content isn’t actually free. Creating that information involves costs: someone, somewhere, invested time, effort, brain power, computer resources etc. to share their information with the world.
There are millions of informational sites out there with tens, even hundreds of thousands of professors, experts and communities who regularly add to the massive body of knowledge on the web. As a fair trade for this ‘free’ information, adverts are found on most pages of the internet, and if you click on an advert or two while visiting those sites, you’re supporting someone who is providing the world with a ‘free’ resource.
Advertising is not a dirty word!
Advertising can sometimes attract bad press from publishers and visitors alike. Yet the relationship between all stakeholders is symbiotic – publishers gain revenue, advertisers sell their products and services, and users enjoy free access to the content of the site. Quite often, advertisements actually enhance the user experience. Let me explain – There are broadly two types of online advertising classifications: contextual and re-targeting.
Contextual ads: On some sites, adverts are related to the content of the site – so adverts can help to focus the site, elevate its purpose and reinforce the value of the content in that niche. For example, take a website, say on nursing techniques. It’s likely that the adverts may well be for medical equipment, pharmaceuticals or nursing schools – all of which have direct relevance to the site’s content and are likely to be of interest to the majority of visitors.
Re-targeting ads: Online adverts are increasingly being tailored to the individual reader based on his or her browsing preferences. Say for example you keep meaning to buy flowers for your Mom (or Mum) for Mother’s day. You took a look at a flower delivery site but got distracted and didn’t buy the bouquet. Mother’s day approaches, you still haven’t bought, but the increasingly urgent adverts that follow you as you browse finally motivate you to order the flowers in the nick of time to be delivered on the day. So adverts can even help to manage your life – and keep you in your Mom’s good books!
The quality of adverts is becoming very high, to the point where some enhance the on-site experience. Think of visiting a car enthusiasts’ site – your visitors you get great information on cars, engines, specifications etc. – but some of the extra enjoyment can come from a video of a car they might really like, or for a racing event or recently released movie – these professionally produced fillips can be a real pleasure to watch (think of the superb videos produced for the annual Superbowl!) – I’m not suggesting the adverts subvert the importance of the content, merely that they can support the delivery of information of interest on the site’s subject matter.
Many visitors, if being honest, will admit they’ve clicked on an advert that has helped them obtain some goods and services – who hasn’t? I’ll be willing to bet they’ve often done so at the last minute possible too. I’m guessing they have even smiled at some of the creativity behind some of the adverts, and enjoyed your site all the more for them. So carefully selected and positioned adverts can, and often do, enhance user experience while generating a valuable revenue stream for the owner.
Free Content is Fair!
So as you can see, advertising is part of a symbiotic relationship between website owners, advertisers and visitors. Visitors understand the reason for, and benefit of, placing adverts on websites and accept this as a price to pay for free access to information. As a website owner, you should be rewarded for providing exceptional content for free – advertising does that and can incentivize and motivate you to create more great quality, authoritative, information that your visitors want. It’s a win-win for everyone – so relax – it’s OK to place and enjoy adverts!
Content – publishers – advertising – visitors: it’s all part of this great informational ecosystem called the web. Aren’t we lucky to be living in this fantastic digital age!